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A dopant, also called a doping agent, is a trace of impurity element that is introduced into a chemical material to alter its original electrical or optical properties. The amount of dopant necessary to cause changes is typically very low. When doped into crystalline substances, the dopant's atoms get incorporated into its crystal lattice. The crystalline materials are frequently either crystals of a semiconductor such as silicon and germanium for use in solid-state electronics, or transparent crystals for use in the production of various laser types; however, in some cases of the latter, noncrystalline substances such as glass can also be doped with impurities.

Optics The branch of physics that studies light

Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behaviour of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves exhibit similar properties.

Crystal solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an ordered pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions

A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituents are arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure, forming a crystal lattice that extends in all directions. In addition, macroscopic single crystals are usually identifiable by their geometrical shape, consisting of flat faces with specific, characteristic orientations. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography. The process of crystal formation via mechanisms of crystal growth is called crystallization or solidification.

A semiconductor material has an electrical conductivity value falling between that of a conductor, such as metallic copper, and an insulator, such as glass. Its resistance decreases as its temperature increases, which is behaviour opposite to that of a metal. Its conducting properties may be altered in useful ways by the deliberate, controlled introduction of impurities ("doping") into the crystal structure. Where two differently-doped regions exist in the same crystal, a semiconductor junction is created. The behavior of charge carriers which include electrons, ions and electron holes at these junctions is the basis of diodes, transistors and all modern electronics. Some examples of semiconductors are silicon, germanium, gallium arsenide, and elements near the so-called "metalloid staircase" on the periodic table. After silicon, gallium arsenide is the second most common semiconductor and is used in laser diodes, solar cells, microwave-frequency integrated circuits and others. Silicon is a critical element for fabricating most electronic circuits.


In solid-state electronics using the proper types and amounts of dopants in semiconductors is what produces the p-type semiconductors and n-type semiconductors that are essential for making transistors and diodes.

Transistor semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.

Diode abstract electronic component with two terminals that allows current to flow in one direction

A diode is a two-terminal electronic component that conducts current primarily in one direction ; it has low resistance in one direction, and high resistance in the other. A diode vacuum tube or thermionic diode is a vacuum tube with two electrodes, a heated cathode and a plate, in which electrons can flow in only one direction, from cathode to plate. A semiconductor diode, the most commonly used type today, is a crystalline piece of semiconductor material with a p–n junction connected to two electrical terminals. Semiconductor diodes were the first semiconductor electronic devices. The discovery of asymmetric electrical conduction across the contact between a crystalline mineral and a metal was made by German physicist Ferdinand Braun in 1874. Today, most diodes are made of silicon, but other materials such as gallium arsenide and germanium are used.

Transparent crystals

Lasing media

The procedure of doping tiny amounts of the metals chromium (Cr), neodymium (Nd), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), and a few others, into transparent crystals, ceramics, or glasses is used to produce the active medium for solid-state lasers. It is in the electrons of the dopant atoms that a population inversion can be produced, and this population inversion is essential for the stimulated emission of photons in the operation of all lasers.

Chromium Chemical element with atomic number 24

Chromium is a chemical element with the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. It is the first element in group 6. It is a steely-grey, lustrous, hard and brittle transition metal. Chromium is also the main additive in stainless steel, to which it adds anti-corrosive properties. Chromium is also highly valued as a metal that is able to be highly polished while resisting tarnishing. Polished chromium reflects almost 70% of the visible spectrum, with almost 90% of infrared light being reflected. The name of the element is derived from the Greek word χρῶμα, chrōma, meaning color, because many chromium compounds are intensely colored.

Neodymium Chemical element with atomic number 60

Neodymium is a chemical element with the symbol Nd and atomic number 60. Neodymium belongs to the lanthanide series and is a rare-earth element. It is a hard, slightly malleable silvery metal, that quickly tarnishes in air and moisture. When oxidized, neodymium reacts quickly to produce pink, purple/blue and yellow compounds in the +2, +3 and +4 oxidation state. Neodymium was discovered in 1885 by the Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach. It is present in significant quantities in the ore minerals monazite and bastnäsite. Neodymium is not found naturally in metallic form or unmixed with other lanthanides, and it is usually refined for general use. Although neodymium is classed as a rare-earth element, it is fairly common, no rarer than cobalt, nickel, or copper, and is widely distributed in the Earth's crust. Most of the world's commercial neodymium is mined in China.

Erbium Chemical element with atomic number 68

Erbium is a chemical element with the symbol Er and atomic number 68. A silvery-white solid metal when artificially isolated, natural erbium is always found in chemical combination with other elements. It is a lanthanide, a rare earth element, originally found in the gadolinite mine in Ytterby in Sweden, from which it got its name.

In the case of the natural ruby, what has occurred is that a tiny amount of chromium dopant has been naturally distributed through a crystal of aluminium oxide (corundum). This chromium both gives a ruby its red color, and also enables a ruby to undergo a population inversion and act as a laser. The aluminium and oxygen atoms in the transparent crystal of aluminium oxide served simply to support the chromium atoms in a good spatial distribution, and otherwise, they do not have anything to do with the laser action.

Ruby variety of corundum, mineral, gemstone

A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum. Other varieties of gem-quality corundum are called sapphires. Ruby is one of the traditional cardinal gems, together with amethyst, sapphire, emerald, and diamond. The word ruby comes from ruber, Latin for red. The color of a ruby is due to the element chromium.

Aluminium oxide Chemical compound

Aluminium oxide (IUPAC name) or aluminum oxide (American English) is a chemical compound of aluminium and oxygen with the chemical formula Al2O3. It is the most commonly occurring of several aluminium oxides, and specifically identified as aluminium(III) oxide. It is commonly called alumina and may also be called aloxide, aloxite, or alundum depending on particular forms or applications. It occurs naturally in its crystalline polymorphic phase α-Al2O3 as the mineral corundum, varieties of which form the precious gemstones ruby and sapphire. Al2O3 is significant in its use to produce aluminium metal, as an abrasive owing to its hardness, and as a refractory material owing to its high melting point.

Corundum Oxide mineral

Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide typically containing traces of iron, titanium, vanadium and chromium. It is a rock-forming mineral. It is also a naturally transparent material, but can have different colors depending on the presence of transition metal impurities in its crystalline structure. Corundum has two primary gem varieties: ruby and sapphire. Rubies are red due to the presence of chromium, and sapphires exhibit a range of colors depending on what transition metal is present. A rare type of sapphire, padparadscha sapphire, is pink-orange.

In other cases, such as in the neodymium YAG laser, the crystal is synthetically made and does not occur in nature. The man-made yttrium aluminium garnet crystal contains millions of yttrium atoms in it, and due to its physical size, chemical valence, etc., it works well to take the place of a small minority of yttrium atoms in its lattice, and to replace them with atoms from the rare-earth series of elements, such as neodymium. Then, these dopant atoms actually carry out the lasing process in the crystal. The rest of the atoms in the crystal consist of yttrium, aluminium, and oxygen atoms, but just as above, these other three elements function to simply support the neodymium atoms. In addition, the rare-earth element erbium can readily be used as the dopant rather than neodymium, giving a different wavelength of its output.

Yttrium aluminium garnet (YAG, Y3Al5O12) is a synthetic crystalline material of the garnet group. It is a cubic yttrium aluminium oxide phase, with other examples being YAlO3 in a hexagonal or an orthorhombic, perovskite-like form, and the monoclinic Y4Al2O9.

In many optically-transparent hosts, such active centers may keep their excitation for a time on the order of milliseconds, and relax with stimulated emission, providing the laser action. The amount of dopant is usually measured in atomic percent. Usually the relative atomic percent is assumed in the calculations, taking into account that the dopant ion can substitute in only part of a site in a crystalline lattice. The doping can be also used to change the refraction index in optical fibers, especially in the double-clad fibers. The optical dopants are characterized with lifetime of excitation and the effective absorption and emission cross-sections, which are main parameters of an active dopant. Usually, the concentration of optical dopant is of order of few percent or even lower. At large density of excitation, the cooperative quenching (cross-relaxation) reduces the efficiency of the laser action.

Stimulated emission process by which an incoming photon of a specific frequency can interact with an excited atomic electron (or other excited molecular state), causing it to drop to a lower energy level

Stimulated emission is the process by which an incoming photon of a specific frequency can interact with an excited atomic electron, causing it to drop to a lower energy level. The liberated energy transfers to the electromagnetic field, creating a new photon with a phase, frequency, polarization, and direction of travel that are all identical to the photons of the incident wave. This is in contrast to spontaneous emission, which occurs at random intervals without regard to the ambient electromagnetic field.

Optical fiber light-conducting fiber

An optical fiber is a flexible, transparent fiber made by drawing glass (silica) or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair. Optical fibers are used most often as a means to transmit light between the two ends of the fiber and find wide usage in fiber-optic communications, where they permit transmission over longer distances and at higher bandwidths than electrical cables. Fibers are used instead of metal wires because signals travel along them with less loss; in addition, fibers are immune to electromagnetic interference, a problem from which metal wires suffer excessively. Fibers are also used for illumination and imaging, and are often wrapped in bundles so they may be used to carry light into, or images out of confined spaces, as in the case of a fiberscope. Specially designed fibers are also used for a variety of other applications, some of them being fiber optic sensors and fiber lasers.

Double-clad fiber

Double-clad fiber (DCF) is a class of optical fiber with a structure consisting of three layers of optical material instead of the usual two. The inner-most layer is called the core. It is surrounded by the inner cladding, which is surrounded by the outer cladding. The three layers are made of materials with different refractive indices.


The medical field has some use for erbium-doped laser crystals for the laser scalpels that are used in laser surgery. Europium, neodymium, and other rare-earth elements are used to dope glasses for lasers. Holmium-doped and neodymium yttrium aluminium garnets (YAGs) are used as the active laser medium in some laser scalpels. [1]

Phosphors and scintillators

In context of phosphors and scintillators, dopants are better known as activators, and are used to enhance the luminescence process. [2]


The addition of a dopant to a semiconductor, known as doping, has the effect of shifting the Fermi levels within the material.[ citation needed ] This results in a material with predominantly negative (n-type) or positive (p-type) charge carriers depending on the dopant variety. Pure semiconductors that have been altered by the presence of dopants are known as extrinsic semiconductors (see intrinsic semiconductor). Dopants are introduced into semiconductors in a variety of techniques: solid sources, gases, spin on liquid, and ion implanting. See ion implantation, surface diffusion, and solid sources footnote.


The color of some gemstones is caused by dopants. For example, ruby and sapphire are both aluminium oxide, the former getting its red color from chromium atoms, and the latter doped with any of several elements, giving a variety of colors.

See also

Related Research Articles

Laser construction

A laser is constructed from three principal parts:

Optical amplifier device that amplifies an optical signal

An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from the cavity is suppressed. Optical amplifiers are important in optical communication and laser physics. They are used as optical repeaters in the long distance fiberoptic cables which carry much of the world's telecommunication links.

Nd:YAG laser

Nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet; Nd:Y3Al5O12) is a crystal that is used as a lasing medium for solid-state lasers. The dopant, triply ionized neodymium, Nd(III), typically replaces a small fraction (1%) of the yttrium ions in the host crystal structure of the yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG), since the two ions are of similar size. It is the neodymium ion which provides the lasing activity in the crystal, in the same fashion as red chromium ion in ruby lasers.

Diode-pumped solid-state lasers (DPSSLs) are solid-state lasers made by pumping a solid gain medium, for example, a ruby or a neodymium-doped YAG crystal, with a laser diode.

Transparent ceramics

Many ceramic materials, both glassy and crystalline, have found use as optically transparent materials in various forms from bulk solid-state components to high surface area forms such as thin films, coatings, and fibers. Such devices have found widespread use for various applications in the electro-optical field including: optical fibers for guided lightwave transmission, optical switches, laser amplifiers and lenses, hosts for solid-state lasers and optical window materials for gas lasers, and infrared (IR) heat seeking devices for missile guidance systems and IR night vision.

Neodymium-doped yttrium orthovanadate (Nd:YVO4) is a crystalline material formed by adding neodymium ions to yttrium orthovanadate. It is commonly used as an active laser medium for diode-pumped solid-state lasers. It comes as a transparent blue-tinted material. It is birefringent, therefore rods made of it are usually rectangular.

Yttrium orthovanadate (YVO4) is a transparent crystal. Undoped YVO4 is also used to make efficient high-power polarizing prisms similar to Glan–Taylor prisms.

Yttrium(III) oxide chemical compound

Yttrium oxide, also known as yttria, is Y2O3. It is an air-stable, white solid substance. Yttrium oxide is used as a common starting material for both materials science as well as inorganic compounds.

Potassium titanyl phosphate chemical compound

Potassium titanyl phosphate (KTP) is an inorganic compound with the formula KTiOPO4. It is a white solid. KTP is an important nonlinear optical material that is commonly used for frequency doubling diode pumped solid-state lasers such as Nd:YAG and other neodymium-doped lasers.

A solid-state laser is a laser that uses a gain medium that is a solid, rather than a liquid such as in dye lasers or a gas as in gas lasers. Semiconductor-based lasers are also in the solid state, but are generally considered as a separate class from solid-state lasers.

Here, is a list of initialisms and acronyms used in laser physics, applications and technology.

Zinc telluride chemical compound

Zinc telluride is a binary chemical compound with the formula ZnTe. This solid is a semiconductor material with a direct band gap of 2.26 eV. It is usually a p-type semiconductor. Its crystal structure is cubic, like that for sphalerite and diamond.

Lutetium aluminum garnet (commonly abbreviated LuAG, molecular formula Al5Lu3O12) is an inorganic compound with a unique crystal structure primarily known for its use in high-efficiency laser devices. LuAG is also useful in the synthesis of transparent ceramics.

Neodymium-doped yttrium lithium fluoride (Nd:YLF) is a lasing medium for arc lamp-pumped and diode-pumped solid-state lasers. The YLF crystal (LiYF4) is naturally birefringent, and commonly used laser transitions occur at 1047 nm and 1053 nm.

An extrinsic semiconductor is one that has been doped; during manufacture of the semiconductor crystal a trace element or chemical called a doping agent has been incorporated chemically into the crystal, for the purpose of giving it different electrical properties than the pure semiconductor crystal, which is called an intrinsic semiconductor. In an extrinsic semiconductor it is these foreign dopant atoms in the crystal lattice that mainly provide the charge carriers which carry electric current through the crystal. The doping agents used are of two types, resulting in two types of extrinsic semiconductor. An electron donor dopant is an atom which, when incorporated in the crystal, releases a mobile conduction electron into the crystal lattice. An extrinsic semiconductor which has been doped with electron donor atoms is called an n-type semiconductor, because the majority of charge carriers in the crystal are negative electrons. An electron acceptor dopant is an atom which accepts an electron from the lattice, creating a vacancy where an electron should be called a hole which can move through the crystal like a positively charged particle. An extrinsic semiconductor which has been doped with electron acceptor atoms is called a p-type semiconductor, because the majority of charge carriers in the crystal are positive holes.

In phosphors and scintillators, the activator is the element added as dopant to the crystal of the material to create desired type of nonhomogeneities.

Laser beam machining

Laser beam machining (LBM) is a non conventional Machining manufacturing process, a form of machining, in which a laser is directed towards the work piece for machining. This process uses thermal energy to remove material from metallic or nonmetallic surfaces. The high frequency of monochromatic light will fall on the surface then heating, melting and vaporizing of the material take place due to impinge of photons. Laser beam machining is best suited for brittle materials with low conductivity, but can be used on most materials.


  1. Moskalik, K; A Kozlov; E Demin; E Boiko (2009). "The Efficacy of Facial Skin Cancer Treatment with High-Energy Pulsed Neodymium and Nd:YAG Lasers". Photomedicine Laser Surgery. 27 (2): 345–349. doi:10.1089/pho.2008.2327. PMID   19382838.
  2. Kalyani, N. Thejo; Swart, Hendrik; Dhoble, S.J. Principles and Applications of Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs). p. 25.