Essential guides to crossing the boundaries

Basic Semiconductor Physics. First edition - Semiconductor Physics and Applications. First edition

November 29, 2002

The theory of semiconductors has been an essential factor in developing the modern electronics that has so changed our lives. Without a clear understanding of the interaction between crystal structure and electronic configuration, we would not have the transistor, the LED, the microprocessor, the microcomputer or the internet.

It is therefore sad to see that a discipline that can have such an influence is marginalised or omitted from many university physics and engineering courses. Future developments in semiconductors demand researchers with skills that are likely to be based on, or follow on from, the content of these books.

But if the academic world is pursuing different goals, who will educate people for this need? In the short term, a skills shortage could be filled by people moving across from other disciplines. But this immediately raises a question: if they do diffuse into solid-state physics, are they going to be in a position to assimilate the material that is contained in these books? For that reason, such books must be user-friendly.

M. Balkanski and R. F. Wallis state that their book is concerned with basics and applications. I found it strong on the former but slightly weak on the latter (this may be due to my definition of "applications", which draws a distinction between the ideal devices of semiconductor theory and the real-world components that must be manufactured for applications).

Their educational approach is good and I particularly liked the introductory box at the start of each of the 20 chapters. The end-of-chapter examples are educationally sound, but the references (at the end of each chapter) are largely to ancient and respected texts and papers; some modern commentaries might have been useful. Nevertheless, the later chapters bring the reader right up to date with super-lattice materials and quantum effects. This is definitely accessible as an undergraduate/postgraduate text, although it requires considerable mathematical expertise.

I found much greater difficulty with Chihiro Hamaguchi's book. It is quite clearly written by a man who adores his subject, but he appears to have no concept of the difficulties that will face the reader attempting to come to terms with his heavy dependence on mathematical presentation.

He dives straight in at the start of each chapter and there are no end-of-chapter problems. His references are assembled by chapter at the end of the book.

The author states that it is intended for postgraduates and researchers. It is certainly not suitable for undergraduates and many postgraduates would have difficulty with it, even if they used Balkanski's and Wallis's book as a preliminary text. That said, I believe that it could be a useful source of reference for specialists in the field.

My major complaint must rest with the publishers. There are many typographical errors throughout the book but the density of errors in the preface is excessive. The author is not a native English speaker and most of these errors should have been picked up at the copy-editing/proof-reading stages.

Donard de Cogan is reader in electronics, University of East Anglia.

Basic Semiconductor Physics. First edition

Author - Chihiro Hamaguchi
ISBN - 3 540 41639 0
Publisher - Springer
Price - £35.00
Pages - 434

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