Quantum Wells in LEDs

Previously, the topic of a quantum well’s functionality was discussed. Here, the topic of quantum wells’ function specifically within Light Emitting Diodes is discussed. In fact, quantum wells often implement multiple quantum wells to increase their luminescence, or total light emission.

Quantum wells are formed when a type of semiconductor (or compound semiconductor) with a more narrow bandgap between its conduction and valence band is placed in between two wider bandgap semiconductors (such as GaN or AlN). The quantum well traps electrons within it at the conduction band, so as to increase recombination. Holes from the valence band will recombine with the conduction band electrons to emit photons which gives the LED its distinct emission of light. The quantum well is the reason why the LED does not function strictly as a diode. If the electrons were not trapped, the current would simply flow normally as in a regular LED. Although a greater number of quantum wells increases the luminescence of the LED, it can also lead to defects in the device.

LEDs generate different colors of light by using different semiconductor material and different amounts of doping. This changes the energy gaps and leads to a different wavelength of light being produced. Gallium is a common element used in these compound materials.

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