Carrier Recombination

Carrier recombination is an effect in which electrons and holes (carriers) interract with each other in a way in which both particles are eliminated. The energy given off in this process is related to the difference between the energy of the initial and final state of the electron that is moved during this process. Recombination can be stimulated by temperature changes, exposure to light or electric fields. Radiative recombination occurs when a photon is emitted in the process. Non-radiative recombination occurs when a phonon (quanta of lattice vibrations) is given off rather than a photon. A special case known as “Auger recombination” causes kinetic energy to be transferred to another electron.

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Band to band recombination occurs when an electron moves from one band to another. In thermal equilibrium, the carrier generation rate is equal to the recombination rate. This type of recombination is dependent on carrier density. In a direct bandgap material, this will radiate a photon.

An atom of a different type of defect in the material can form “traps” which can contain one electron when the particle falls into it. Essentially, trap assisted recombination is a two step transitional process as opposed to the one step band to band transition. This is sometimes known as R-G center recombination. A two step recombination is known as “Shockley Read Hall” recombination. This is typically indirect recombinaton, which emits lattice vibrations rather than light.

The final type is Auger Recombination caused by collisions. These collisions between carriers transfer motional energy to another particle. One of the main reasons why this is distinct from the other two types is that this transfer of energy also causes a change in the recombination rate. Like the previous type, this tends to be non radiative.

A distinction should be made for band-to-band recombination between stimulated and spontaneous emission. Spontaneous emission is not started by a photon, but rather due to temperature or some other means (sometimes called luminescence). As stated in a previous post, stimulated emission is what emits coherent light in lasers, however spontaneous emission is responsible for most light emission in general.

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