A new textbook authored by a Cornell professor molds scientific subjects such as quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, crystallography and electromagnetism, all under the umbrella of the semiconductor materials and devices that have become ubiquitous in daily life.
“Quantum Physics of Semiconductor Materials and Devices” is authored by Debdeep Jena, the David E. Burr Professor of Engineering in Cornell’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The textbook, published by Oxford University Press, debuted this month on Amazon as a top seller in the categories of solid state physics and electromagnetism.
“Semiconductor materials and devices today power the information age,” said Jena, who added semiconductors are at the forefront of clean energy technologies and vital to international economics and security. “Several nations, including the US, are increasing budgets allocated for semiconductor production, research and education of the new workforce. Books on this subject have traditionally not aimed to inspire and recruit a diverse student base cutting across disciplines, which is what the semiconductor industry demands now more than ever.”
Jena wrote the book mainly for upper-level undergraduate students and beginning graduate students in a number of academic fields spanning, but not limited to, physics, chemistry, electrical and computer engineering, chemical engineering, and materials science.
Contents of the book will also be of interest to practitioners in the semiconductor industry and to scientific policy makers. Aside from the quantum physics of semiconductors, the book includes information on the history of semiconductor development, societal needs and the future potential of semiconductors, and the wide range of modern applications for semiconductors, such as transistors in microprocessors of computers and cellphones, LED and laser lighting, and solar cells.
“I made an effort in this book to make each topic as tangible as possible,” Jena wrote in the book’s preface. “The concepts are developed from their experimental roots, with historical trails, personalities, and stories where possible, to reflect the subject as a human adventure.”
Jena added that mathematical structure is developed in the book to explain experimental observations and then predict new phenomena and devices.
“I believe this is a unique approach towards a book on this subject, one that distinguishes it from others in the field,” Jena wrote.
The textbook’s four main parts encompass more material than can be learned in a single semester, so each part is designed to be taught as a stand-alone module. The parts include: Fundamentals; Bands, Doping, and Heterostructures; Quantum Electronics with Semiconductors; and Quantum Photonics with Semiconductors.
Playful chapter titles such as “Red or Blue Pill: Befriending the Matrix” and “Game of Modes: Quantized R, L, and C” demonstrate Jena’s goal of creating engaging text that modernizes the subject matter and resonates with students.
“The quantum physics of semiconductors is not abstract,” Jena wrote. “The glow of semiconductor quantum well light emitting diodes in our rooms and cellphone screens puts the power and utility of understanding the quantum physics of semiconductors and nanostructures on display right in front of our very eyes.”
The textbook also features end-of-chapter exercises that Jena said have been tried and tested as homework assignments. I have noted that the problems are designed to encourage deep thinking, thoughtful discussion, and independent learning.
“If the book gives ideas, or makes connections for readers that enable them to make new discoveries or inventions that outdate the topics discussed here, it will have exceeded its intended pedagogical purpose,” Jena wrote.
In one review, Chris G. Van de Walle, a distinguished professor of materials science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, described the book as “engaging, attractively presented, and very clear.” I added, “This book truly fills a gap.”