Electrons and holes
Pure semiconductors are relatively good insulators as compared with metals, though not nearly as good as a true insulator like glass. To be useful in semiconductor applications, the intrinsic semiconductor, pure undoped semiconductor must have no more than one impurity atom in 10 billion semiconductor atoms. This is analogous to a grain of salt impurity in a railroad boxcar of sugar. Impure, or dirty semiconductors are considerably more conductive, though not as good as metals. Why might this be? To answer that question, we must look at the electron structure of such materials in Figure .
Figure (a) shows four electrons in the valence shell of a semiconductor forming covalent bonds to four other atoms. This is a flattened, easier to draw, version of
Figure . All electrons of an atom are tied up in four covalent bonds, pairs of shared electrons. Electrons are not free to move about the crystal lattice. Thus, intrinsic, pure, semiconductors are relatively good insulators as compared to metals.