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Photoconductivity

An optical and electrical phenomenon in which a material becomes more electrically conductive due to the absorption of electromagnetic radiation such as visible light, ultraviolet light, infrared light, or gamma radiation.

Photoconductivity is an optical and electrical phenomenon in which a material becomes more electrically conductive due to the absorption of electromagnetic radiation such as visible light, ultraviolet light, infrared light, or gamma radiation.

When light is absorbed by a material such as a semiconductor, the number of free electrons and electron holes increases and raises its electrical conductivity. To cause excitation, the light that strikes the semiconductor must have enough energy to raise electrons across the bandgap or to excite the impurities within the bandgap. When a bias voltage and a load resistor are used in series with the semiconductor, a voltage drop across the load resistors can be measured when the change in electrical conductivity of the material varies the current through the circuit.

Classic examples of photoconductive materials include :

  • the conductive polymer polyvinyl carbazole used extensively in photocopying (xerography);
  • lead sulfide, used in infrared detection applications, such as the U.S. Sidewinder and Soviet (now Russian) Atoll heat-seeking missiles;
  • selenium, employed in early television and xerography.

Key Terms

absorption electromagnetic radiation
bandgap
definition
electrical phenomenon
light
material
photoconductivity
semiconductor
usage
visible light

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Synonymns

Photoconductivity
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Last modified on June 4 2020
Content adapted from Wikipedia
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