Semiconductors helped usher in the Digital Age in the 20th century, and presently the Information Age. Now they are transforming the lighting, energy and biotech markets.

Semiconductors are materials with tunable electrical conductivity. Semiconductors are an engineering marvel  hardly any semiconductor is useful in its natural form. Numerous growth, processing and finishing steps convert the raw material to the carefully-designed functional device with the targeted electrical and optical properties.

Did you know? The first modern transistor was made out of Germanium  (Bell Labs, 1947).

Silicon is the most common semiconductor, dominating the digital data processing market (computer chips) as well as the photovoltaics industry (solar panels).

Other commercial semiconductors are SiC, the "3-5s" (GaP, InSb, AlGaAs, GaN, etc), organic semiconductors (e.g., pentacene) and more.

Raw materials must be cleaned extensively and grown into a single crystal with as few defects as possible. The pure semiconductor is an electrical insulator. Through a process called "implantation" the material is made impure again, but in a controlled manner. These exogenous atoms impart electrical conductivity to the whole crystal.

Semiconductor material processing and device fabrication are conducted in clean rooms, which have a precisely-controlled atmosphere, free of dust, hair, or other foreign material that could contaminate the semiconductor or the equipment. Humans in the cleanroom must wear protective gear, such as "bunny suits".

Students at the A. James Clark School of Engineering have the opportunity to take a class or perform research in one of several such facilities on campus. One of the core courses of the B.Sc. program in MSE, ENMA465: Microprocessing of Materials includes lab sessions in the Nanocenter Fablab, our state-of-the-art nanofabrication clean room facility. In the elective course ENMA466: Advanced Materials Fabrication Laboratory students are trained to fabricate materials and devices, and evaluate them using a variety of characterization techniques.

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Pioneering Materials Science and Engineering @ the University of Maryland



The exceptional physical and electrical properties of diamond – high breakdown voltage (>10 MV/cm), high hole carrier volume mobility (>3800 cm2/V·sec), extremely high thermal conductivity (>22 W/cm·K), and excellent mechanical and thermal stability in vacuum – are exploited by Prof. Aris Christou and collaborators to achieve resilient power electronics devices. Read the full story here.

Link to Prof. Christou's Laboratory webpage.



transverse thermopower scheme

Semiconductors may generate electrical signals (i.e. current or voltage) when exposed to light or heat. Innoveering LLC, a company specializing in engineering solutions for the aeroscape industries, is teaming up with Prof. Rabin (Mater Sci & Eng) and Prof. Laurence (Aerospace Eng) to develop heat flow sensors capable of withstanding harsh hypersonic flight conditions. At the core of the device are semiconductors with low-symmetry crystals and fast-response thermopower generation capabilities.

Link to Prof. Rabin's Laboratory webpage.


Semiconductors — UMD Researchers

Movies, Stories & Links

  • How Microchips are Made
    Follow step-by-step the fabrication of "electronic chips". The film focuses on the making of single crystal silicon wafers by the Czochralski process.
  • The Fabrication of Integrated Circuits
    Follow step-by-step the fabrication of "electronic chips". Through film and animations the tools of the traditional industrial cleanroom "semiconductor foundry" are introduced.
  • How Does a Transistor Work?
    Veritasium explains the scientific concepts in a funny and approachable manner.

The Next Big Thing in MSE!

Embark on an exciting career by enrolling in the B.Sc., M.Sc. or Ph.D. programs and you can take part in advancing the field of Materials. All students are provided opportunities to join research teams and perform laboratory work in the area of their interest.

Undergraduate programGraduate program

Semiconductors — UMD Researchers

Aris Christou

301-405-5208 |

John Cumings

Associate Professor
301-405-0789 |

Liangbing Hu

Distinguished University Professor
301-405-9303 |

Gottlieb S. Oehrlein

301-405-8931 |

Ray Phaneuf

301-405-6566 |

Oded Rabin

Associate Professor
301-405-3382 |

Gary Rubloff

Distinguished University Professor
301-405-3011 |

Ichiro Takeuchi

301-405-6809 |