What Is a Semiconductor and How Is It Used

A semiconductor, also known as a chip or semi-conductive material, has properties that allow it to conduct electricity. The term ‘semi’ in the chips means that they have partial properties of an insulator and a conductor. Since a conductor can conduct electricity while an insulator cannot, semiconductors become the medium between the two. However, the chips’ ability is limited to certain conditions, thanks to impurities determining their usability for specific electronic applications.


Silicon is a popular material for developing semiconductors, and the conductivity level of semiconductors can vary depending on the amount of electrical fields or impurities (dopants) applied. Dopant application happens at the chip manufacturing stage. The presence of the dopant modifies the semiconductor’s behavior and conductivity, influencing its ability to control and manipulate electricity flow.


Types of Semiconductors


There are two types of chips whose composition varies based on the elements added at the manufacturing stage besides crystalline lattice.


N-Type (Intrinsic) Doping – This process introduces atoms such as phosphorus, arsenic, or bismuth. They usually have negatively charged mobile extra electrons on the outside coating that influence material conductivity.


P-Type (Extrinsic) Doping – This process introduces five different electrons in its valence layer. Phosphorus, arsenic, and antimony are common additions but have fewer positive electrons on their outer coating, creating holes. However, the holes can accommodate electrons, supporting electron mobility to enhance conductivity.


Uses of Semiconductors


Semi-conductive material is vital in several electrical devices, such as transistors, diodes, hardware, home appliances, computers and phones, or medical equipment. Below are the uses of a semiconductor.


Sensors – Semiconductor sensors are popular in the automobile industry, automation, healthcare devices, and consumer electronics. Their application detects or determines motion, pressure, or temperature.

Laser – Semiconductor lasers are ideal for high-tech applications such as bar code scanners, laser printers, or medical equipment.

Electronics – Semiconductor use in power electronics aims to control and convert electrical power in electrical devices. Common devices are power diodes and thyristors.

LEDs – Semiconductor light-emitting diodes emit light once they detect electric currents passing through them. Because of their reliability and energy efficiency, they are popular in automotive lighting and for personal and commercial illumination needs.

Intergrated Circuits (ICs) – The production of computers, control, and communication systems relies on semiconductor ICs to produce and boost high-performance microprocessors, sensors, memory chips, and other electrical components.

Diodes – Semiconductor diodes have one purpose: to direct the flow of current one way. This ability makes them ideal for stabilizing voltage levels in voltage regulators and converting alternating current to direct current in rectifiers. Diodes also find use in lighting LEDs.

Transistors – Transistors are essential for electrical circuits to execute their purpose. Without semiconductors, transistors wouldn’t amplify and control signals.

Solar cells – Semiconductors integrated into solar panels aid in converting photovoltaic solar cells to usable electricity for commercial or residential use. The sun contains photons that semi-conductive material absorbs to process electric currents.


Over the years, semiconductors have found their way and made a big impact in the industries and products we interact with daily, boosting the global economy. The endless high demand for semiconductors is undeniable, given the backlog of orders delaying production and device development.