Mobility and Saturation Velocity in Semiconductors

In solid state physics, mobility describes how quickly a charge carrier can move within a semiconductor device when in the presence of a force (electric field). When an electric field is applied, the particles begin to move at a certain drift velocity, given by the mobility of the carrier (electron or hole) and electric field. The equation can be written as: density

This is also related to Ohm’s law in point form, which is the conductivity multiplied by the Electric field. This shows that the conductivity of a material is related to the number of charge carriers as well as their mobility within the material. Mobility is heavily dependent on doping, which introduces defects to the material. This means that intrinsic semiconductor material (Si or Ge) has higher mobility, but this is a paradox due to the fact that intrinsic semiconductor has no charge carriers. In addition, mobility is inversely proportional to mass, so a heavier particles will move at a slower rate.

Phonons also contribute to a loss of mobility due to an effect known as “Lattice Scattering”. When the temperature of semiconductor material is raised above absolute zero, the atoms vibrate and create phonons. The higher the temperature, the more phonon particles which means greater collisions and lower mobility.

Saturation velocity refers to the maximum velocity a charge carrier can travel within a semiconductor in the presence of a strong electric field. As previously stated, the velocity is proportional to mobility, but with increasing electric field there reaches a point where the velocity saturates. From this point, increasing the field only leads to more collisions with the lattice structure and phonons, which does not help the drift speed. Different semiconductor materials have different saturation velocities and are strong functions of impurities.