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How to differentiate conductors and semiconductors?

  1. Nov 15, 2009 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I have a (simple?) question: How do you differentiate a material to be a conductor or a semiconductor? It is just only by examining the material's electrical resistivity/conductivity whether it is low or high? Because I have heard that even some metallic conductors have high resistivity.

    For you information, I am currently working with a material called metallic glass, with a compound of Zr55Ni5Al10Cu30. It has high resistivity at room temperature and as heat treatment is applied the resistivity steadily decreases. But up to a certain point, it showed an abrupt decline (due to crystallization).

    My point is, is the steady decline due to heat treatment be sufficient evident enough to conclude that the material is a semiconductor? In other words, does this behavior resides ONLY in semiconductors, and no conductors behave the same?

    Or is there any other experiment(s) that I can do to justify whether the material is a semiconductor or not?

    Thank you in advance.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2009 #2


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    Gold Member

    By definition a semiconductor is a substance that has more resistance that a conductor and less than an insulator, but of course common resistors have this property as well, so that's not the complete answer. Since the common usage of the word semiconductor is used to refer to a substance that can potentially create an active electronic component, I would say that if you can dope it and make a diode out of it, then you could classify it as a semiconductor. That's not to say however that if you can't do this you still don't have a semiconductor, but if you can, I'd say you could. This is not a completely qualified opinion but hopefully it's a starting point.
  4. Nov 18, 2009 #3
    Thank you Buckethead for the lead.
  5. Nov 19, 2009 #4


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    Science Advisor

    In a metal, the single particle excitation spectrum has a discontinuity; the fermi level, In a semiconductor I think it doesn't.
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