The ebook FEEE - Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering and Electronics is based on material originally written by T.R. Kuphaldt and various co-authors. For more information please read the copyright pages.

Valence Electrons

The electrons in the outer most shell, or valence shell, are known as valence electrons. These valence electrons are responsible for the chemical properties of the chemical elements. It is these electrons which participate in chemical reactions with other elements. An over simplified chemistry rule applicable to simple reactions is that atoms try to form a complete outer shell of 8 electrons (two for the L shell). Atoms may give away a few electrons to expose an underlying complete shell. Atoms may accept a few electrons to complete the shell. These two processes form ions from atoms. Atoms may even share electrons among atoms in an attempt to complete the outer shell. This process forms molecular bonds. That is, atoms associate to form a molecule.

For example group I elements: Li, Na, K, Cu, Ag, and Au have a single valence electron. (Figure below) These elements all have similar chemical properties. These atoms readily give away one electron to react with other elements. The ability to easily give away an electron makes these elements excellent conductors.

Periodic table group IA elements: Li, Na, and K, and group IB elements: Cu, Ag, and Au have one electron in the outer, or valence, shell, which is readily donated. Inner shell electrons: For n= 1, 2, 3, 4; 2n2 = 2, 8, 18, 32.

Group VIIA elements: Fl, Cl, Br, and I all have 7 electrons in the outer shell. These elements readily accept an electron to fill up the outer shell with a full 8 electrons. (Figure below) If these elements do accept an electron, a negative ion is formed from the neutral atom. These elements which do not give up electrons are insulators.

Periodic table group VIIA elements: F, Cl, Br, and I with 7 valence electrons readily accept an electron in reactions with other elements.

For example, a Cl atom accepts an electron from an Na atom to become a Cl- ion as shown in Figure below. An ion is a charged particle formed from an atom by either donating or accepting an electron. As the Na atom donates an electron, it becomes a Na+ ion. This is how Na and Cl atoms combine to form NaCl, table salt, which is actually Na+Cl-, a pair of ions. The Na+ and Cl- carrying opposite charges, attract one other.

Neutral Sodium atom donates an electron to neutral Chlorine atom forming Na+ and Cl- ions.

Sodium chloride crystallizes in the cubic structure shown in Figure below. This model is not to scale to show the three dimensional structure. The Na+Cl- ions are actually packed similar to layers of stacked marbles. The easily drawn cubic crystal structure illustrates that a solid crystal may contain charged particles.

Group VIIIA elements: He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe all have 8 electrons in the valence shell. (Figure below) That is, the valence shell is complete. These elements neither donate nor accept electrons. Nor do they readily participate in chemical reactions. Group VIIIA elements do not readily combining with other elements. Though chemist in recent years have forced Xe and Kr to form a few compounds, this is not applicable to our discussion. These elements are good electrical insulators and are gases at room temperature.

Group VIIIA elements: He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe are largely unreactive since the valence shell is complete..

Group IVA elements: C, Si, Ge, having 4 electrons in the valence shell as shown in Figure below form compounds by sharing electrons with other elements without forming ions. This shared electron bonding is known as covalent bonding. Note that the center atom (and the others by extension) has completed its valence shell by sharing electrons. Note that the figure is a 2-d representation of bonding, which is actually 3-d. It is this group, IVA, that we are interested in for its semiconducting properties.

(a) Group IVA elements: C, Si, Ge having 4 electrons in the valence shell, (b) complete the valence shell by sharing electrons with other elements.

Last Update: 2010-11-19