An international team of physicists and chemists has, for the first time, taken snapshots of band-gap jumping electrons in silicon using attosecond pulses of soft X-ray light lasting only a few billionths of a billionth of a second.
These mobile electrons make the semiconductor material conductive so that an applied voltage results in a flowing current. This behavior allows engineers to make silicon switches, known as transistors, which have become the basis of all digital electronics.
Experimental data was facilitated by a series of supercomputer simulations carried out by researchers at the Molecular Foundry and the University of Tsukuba. The simulations modeled both the excitation process and the subsequent interaction of X-ray pulses with the silicon crystal.