Band gap

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In solid state physics, a band gap, also called an energy gap or bandgap, is an energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist. In graphs of the electronic band structure of solids, the band gap generally refers to the energy difference (in electron volts) between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band in insulators and semiconductors. This is equivalent to the energy required to free an outer shell electron from its orbit about the nucleus to become a mobile charge carrier, able to move freely within the solid material. In conductors, the two bands often overlap, so they may not have a band gap.


In semiconductor physics

In semiconductors and insulators, electrons are confined to a number of bands of energy, and forbidden from other regions. The term "band gap" refers to the energy difference between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band. Electrons are able to jump from one band to another. However, in order for an electron to jump from a valence band to a conduction band, it requires a specific minimum amount of energy for the transition. The required energy differs with different materials. Electrons can gain enough energy to jump to the conduction band by absorbing either a phonon (heat) or a photon (light).

A semiconductor is a material with a small but nonzero band gap which behaves as an insulator at absolute zero but allows thermal excitation of electrons into its conduction band at temperatures which are below its melting point. In contrast, a material with a large band gap is an insulator. In conductors, the valence and conduction bands may overlap, so they may not have a band gap.

The conductivity of intrinsic semiconductors is strongly dependent on the band gap. The only available carriers for conduction are the electrons which have enough thermal energy to be excited across the band gap.

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