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Merely pressing together a section of P material and a section of N material, however, is not sufficient to produce a rectifying junction. The semiconductor should be in one piece to form a proper PN junction, but divided into a P-type impurity region and an N-type impurity region. This can be done in various ways. One way is to mix P-type and N-type impurities into a single crystal during the manufacturing process. By so doing, a P-region is grown over part of a semiconductor's length and N-region is grown over the other part. This is called a grown junction and is illustrated in view A of the figure below. Another way to produce a PN junction is to melt one type of impurity into a semiconductor of the opposite type impurity. For example, a pellet of acceptor impurity is placed on a wafer of N-type germanium and heated. Under controlled temperature conditions, the acceptor impurity fuses into the wafer to form a P-region within it, as shown in view B of the figure below. This type of junction is known as an alloy or fused-alloy junction, and it is one of the most commonly used junctions.

Grown and fused PN junctions from which bars are cut
Grown and fused PN junctions from which bars are cut

In the figure below, a point-contact type of construction is shown. It consists of a fine metal wire, called a cat whisker, that makes contact with a small area on the surface of an N-type semiconductor as shown in view A of the figure. The PN union is formed in this process by momentarily applying a high-surge current to the wire and the N-type semiconductor. The heat generated by this current converts the material nearest the point of contact to a P-type material (view B).

The point-contact type of diode construction
The point-contact type of diode construction

Still another process is to heat a section of semiconductor material to near melting and then diffuse impurity atoms into a surface layer. Regardless of the process, the object is to have a perfect bond everywhere along the union (interface) between P and N materials. Proper contact along the union is important because, as we will see later, the union (junction or interface) is the rectifying agent in the diode.

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