CHAPTER 9
Semiconductors in the infrared

9.1 The infrared spectral region

The existence of radiation in the infrared (IR) spectral region was first discovered two centuries ago. In 1800, Sir William Herschel used a simple mercury-in-glass thermometer to demonstrate the heating effect of radiation with wavelengths greater than that of red light, having dispersed it with a glass prism. Since his pioneering work, an enormous amount of development has led to wide-ranging applications based on infrared radiation, including systems for night vision, thermal imaging, burglar alarms, fire alarms, temperature measurement, infrared spectroscopy, infrared lasers, missile guidance, infrared photography, detection of breast cancer, industrial process control, remote control of TV sets, etc. and semiconductors have played a vital part in many of these developments both as infrared sources and as detectors, hence this chapter. Nor should we overlook the tremendous importance of infrared measurements in furthering the basic understanding of the nature of electromagnetic radiation—it was largely on this basis that Planck, in 1901, came to propound his famous radiation law, incorporating the revolutionary concept of radiation quanta, or photons. This, in turn, led to Einstein’s quantum theory of electron photoemission (1905), the Bohr theory of the atom (1913), and quantum/wave mechanics by Heisenberg and Schroedinger (1925–6). Needless to say, many of the technological developments referred to depended heavily on this improved understanding, while it is equally true that an inverse relationship also existed. For example, the observation of complex atomic and molecular infrared spectra provided an important stimulus to progress in theoretical quantum chemistry. This introductory section provides a brief outline of the significant features of infrared radiation as utilized in imaging and control systems—for a comprehensive account, the reader should consult the book by Smith, Jones, and Chasmar (1968), while the important subject of infrared spectroscopy is dealt with in Herzberg’s (1945) classic treatment (for a recent account see Duxbury 2000).

But first, as the French Michelin Guide writers are fond of saying, ‘un peu d’histoire’. Following Herschel’s initial discovery, progress was stately, rather than vigorous. The first significant advance was the development of the thermopile (an array of thermocouples), which provided considerably

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The Story of Semiconductors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • Chapter 1 - Perspectives 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Cat's Whiskers 19
  • Chapter 3 - Minority Rule 47
  • Chapter 4 - Silicon, Silicon, and Yet More Silicon 93
  • Chapter 5 - The Compound Challenge 149
  • Chapter 6 - Low Dimensional Structures 213
  • Chapter 7 - Let There Be Light 277
  • Chapter 8 - Communicating with Light 331
  • Chapter 9 - Semiconductors in the Infrared 385
  • Chapter 10 - Polycrystalline and Amorphous Semiconductors 447
  • Index 503
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