Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 23

electrical conduction - Solids (including insulating solids), Electrolytes, Gases and plasmas

electrons charged free holes

The transport of electrical charge through some substance. Only metals conduct electricity well; conduction is by means of the free electrons in the electron gas characteristic of metal structure. Ionic and covalently bound solids are insulators; but ionic solids such as salt (sodium chloride) conduct when dissolved in water, as the electrically charged ions become free to move. In semiconductors, the low electrical conductivity is due to a small number of electrons acquiring sufficient energy to become released into the body of the material in a way similar to conduction electrons in metals. The spaces vacated by the electrons (holes) behave as positively charged particles, and also contribute to conduction. Conduction in semi-conductors may be altered by ‘doping’ - the introduction of impurities to provide more holes and electrons.

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