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In solid state physics, a particle's effective mass is the mass it seems to carry in the semiclassical model of transport in a crystal. It can be shown that, under most conditions, electrons and holes in a crystal respond to electric and magnetic fields almost as if they were free particles in a vacuum, but with a different mass. This mass is usually stated in units of the ordinary mass of an electron me (9.11×10-31 kg).
where a is acceleration,
h is Planck's constant, k is the wave number (often loosely called momentum since k = p / h), ε(k) is the energy as a function of k, or the dispersion relation as it is often called. From the external electric field alone, the electron would experience a force of qE, where q is the charge. Hence under the model that only the external electric field acts, effective mass m* becomes:
For a free particle, the dispersion relation is a quadratic, and so the effective mass would be constant (and equal to the real mass). In a crystal, the situation is far more complex. The dispersion relation is not even approximately quadratic, in the large scale. However, wherever a minimum occurs in the dispersion relation, the minimum can be approximated by a quadratic curve in the small region around that minimum. Hence, for electrons which have energy close to a minimum, effective mass is a useful concept.
In energy regions far away from a minimum, effective mass can be negative or even approach infinity. Effective mass, being generally dependent on direction (with respect to the crystal axes ), is a tensor. However, for most calculations the various directions can be averaged out.
Effective mass for some common semiconductors (for density of states calculations)
|Material||Electron effective mass||Hole effective mass|
|Silicon||0.36 me||0.81 me|
|Gallium arsenide<td alme||0.45 me|
|Germanium||0.55 me||0.37 me|
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