Electron hole

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An electron hole is the conceptual and mathematical opposite of an electron, useful in the study of physics, chemistry, and electrical engineering. The concept describes the lack of an electron at a position where one could exist in an atom or atomic lattice. It is different from the positron, which is the antimatter analogue of the electron.

The electron hole was introduced into calculations for the following two situations:

Contents

Solid state physics

In solid state physics, an electron hole (usually referred to simply as a hole) is the absence of an electron from an otherwise full electron shell. A hole is essentially a way to conceptualise the interactions of the electrons within a nearly full system, which is missing just a few electrons. In some ways, the behaviour of a hole within a semiconductor crystal lattice is comparable to that of the bubble in an otherwise full bottle of water.[1]

Hole conduction in a valence band can be explained by the following analogy. Imagine a row of people seated in an auditorium, where there are no spare chairs. Someone in the middle of the row wants to leave, so he jumps over the back of the seat into an empty row, and walks out. The empty row is analogous to the conduction band, and the person walking out is analogous to a free electron.

Now imagine someone else comes along and wants to sit down. The empty row has a poor view; so he does not want to sit there. Instead, a person in the crowded row moves into the empty seat the first person left behind. The empty seat moves one spot closer to the edge and the person waiting to sit down. The next person follows, and the next, et cetera. One could say that the empty seat moves towards the edge of the row. Once the empty seat reaches the edge, the new person can sit down.

In the process everyone in the row has moved along. If those people were negatively charged (like electrons), this movement would constitute conduction. If the seats themselves were positively charged, then only the vacant seat would be positive. This is a very simple model of how hole conduction works.

In reality, due to the crystal structure properties, the hole is not localized to a single position as described in the previous example. Rather, the hole spans an area in the crystal lattice covering many hundreds of unit cells. This is equivalent to being unable to tell which broken bond corresponds to the "missing" electron.