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Solid State Devices - Course Memo 2010

Overview: In circuit labs, semiconductor devices are mysterious lumps of plastic or ceramic with wires or pins leading in and out. In circuit classes, they are symbols with seemingly arbitrary electrical characteristics. Our goal in this class is to finally reveal the mysteries of those devices. This will not be the linear step-by-step process you may have seen in other classes. These devices depend on behavior at or near the atomic level. And that behavior is not even based on the strictly deterministic laws of Newton or Maxwell. Instead, in a world ruled by the seemingly vague probabilities of Quantum Mechanics, solutions are always approximations. The field also draws on an incredibly broad range of disciplines including electrical engineering, physics, chemistry and materials science. The overall result is that there is never a final word on a given subject or device. We will instead develop models and understanding that may be revisited multiple times throughout the class. And if semiconductor devices are (or become) part of your job, you'll undoubtedly end up delving even deeper in the future.

This may all sound rather daunting. But I can offer two bits of reassurance. First, while the "richness" of this field can make it challenging, it can also make it very stimulating: It never gets boring and there is always something more to learn and explore. I've seen this in my 21 years of doing research in this field at Bell Labs, and in my subsequent time as a professor. Second, from my experience in industry, I've gained a unique perspective on what one can reasonably expect from a class such as this. I know that you will not remember the details of derivations for very long, much less specific data. But that works out just fine if you gain a basic sense for how these devices work. That sense was enough for my day-to-day research in this field (which nevertheless yielded 14 patents). And, while the details will fade, learned once, I found that you can reacquire them much, much faster the second time around.

Thus, while we will certainly employ derivations and data, my goal is to use them as tools to acquire that basic sense of how these devices work. I've found that is not a process of memorization but one of doing. So, by the end of the class, you will design your own semiconductor-based resistors, capacitors, diodes, bipolar and MOS field-effect transistors. And to facilitate this, in my class notes and on your exams I'll teach you to use Mathcad, a pretty simple tool that can greatly aid complex calculations based on confusing mixtures of units. Mathcad has the advantage of not being based on opaque computer-program-like commands, It instead uses WYSIWYG "worksheets" that you can readily compare to the textbook and notes, or use to discuss your work with others (and indeed, at Bell Labs, Mathcad was our first line tool for mathematical analysis and communication).

Grading: Emphasis will be on understanding principles, and on the ability to formulate problems and identify a solution strategy.

Tests: Will reflect the same view and emphasize your ability to set up a problem, identify proper assumptions and approximations. All of the exams will feature design problems for which there is not a unique answer and for which the major challenge will be setting up the problem correctly, not the plug and grind of its solution. Further information about tests and homework can be found on the class assignment page (link).

Course Procedures and Details:

Instructor: John C. Bean (webpage / e-mail address)

Textbook: Semiconductor Physics & Devices (3rd Ed.) - D. A.Neaman (ISBN 0-07-232107-5). Available through the UVA bookstore (or through alternate online sources).

Webcast Times: Live webcasts will be broadcast between 10:45 am and 12:55 pm each Monday/Wednesday/Friday, July 2 through August 18 (except July 5!)

Recorded Webcasts: Should be avialable online shortly after the corresponding live webcast

Assignments: Will be posted on the class assignment page (link)

Mathcad: Will be required for homework starting in the second week of the class, and for certain exam problems. Inexpensive copies of the program will be available through the UVA bookstore (< $15). For a simple tutorial (which will also be recorded as a webcast) see: link

Course Grading: I will compute the final grade both of the following ways, and use the higher result:

i) 20% homework / 40% midterm exam / 40% final exam

ii) 20% homework / 80% final exam