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Concept# Two-dimensional electron gas

Summary

A two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG) is a scientific model in solid-state physics. It is an electron gas that is free to move in two dimensions, but tightly confined in the third. This tight confinement leads to quantized energy levels for motion in the third direction, which can then be ignored for most problems. Thus the electrons appear to be a 2D sheet embedded in a 3D world. The analogous construct of holes is called a two-dimensional hole gas (2DHG), and such systems have many useful and interesting properties.
Most 2DEGs are found in transistor-like structures made from semiconductors. The most commonly encountered 2DEG is the layer of electrons found in MOSFETs (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistors). When the transistor is in inversion mode, the electrons underneath the gate oxide are confined to the semiconductor-oxide interface, and thus occupy well defined energy levels. For thin-enough potential wells and temperatures not too high, only the lowest level is occupied (see the figure caption), and so the motion of the electrons perpendicular to the interface can be ignored. However, the electron is free to move parallel to the interface, and so is quasi-two-dimensional.
Other methods for engineering 2DEGs are high-electron-mobility-transistors (HEMTs) and rectangular quantum wells. HEMTs are field-effect transistors that utilize the heterojunction between two semiconducting materials to confine electrons to a triangular quantum well. Electrons confined to the heterojunction of HEMTs exhibit higher mobilities than those in MOSFETs, since the former device utilizes an intentionally undoped channel thereby mitigating the deleterious effect of ionized impurity scattering. Two closely spaced heterojunction interfaces may be used to confine electrons to a rectangular quantum well. Careful choice of the materials and alloy compositions allow control of the carrier densities within the 2DEG.
Electrons may also be confined to the surface of a material.

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