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The naming of doped semiconductors as "n-type" (for donor-doped) and "p-type" (for acceptor-doped) is ubiquitous. But I am having a hard time digging up where this naming tradition comes from and how it has come to be so widely accepted. From my perspective, there is nothing intuitive about this choice of notation. Henceforth the question:

Where does the tradition of labelling donor-doped extrinsic semiconductors as "n" and acceptor-doped as "p" come from?

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  • $\begingroup$ Simple - n for negative, p for positive $\endgroup$ – Nilay Ghosh Apr 28 at 19:13
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I want to supplement Eagle's answer. Long before people deliberately doped semiconductors, physicists were studying samples of crystalline germanium. While playing with these crystals, some seemed to act as if they had a few n or negative carriers in them, and others seemed to have p or positive carriers in them. At first it was not understood why they behaved this way, and the naming convention long predates their use in electronics.

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    $\begingroup$ So I should understand those germanium crystals were rather impure? $\endgroup$ – Ignat Insarov Apr 28 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, can you refer me to the records of those early experiments? $\endgroup$ – Ignat Insarov Apr 28 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ I actually read this in an old article in the physical review (before it branched apart) I will try to find a reference ... $\endgroup$ – Paul Young Apr 29 at 3:41
  • $\begingroup$ djena.engineering.cornell.edu/hws/history_of_semiconductors.pdf Start with the first reference $\endgroup$ – Paul Young Apr 29 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ And, yes, these early crystals were impure. Figuring out that the impurities were responsible for the conductivity was a huge step forward. $\endgroup$ – Paul Young Apr 29 at 14:57
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For semiconductors, n-type mainly refers to Negative electrons which are the major charge carriers, whereas p-type refers to Positive, indicating holes which are the majority charge carriers (in this case), and can be thought of as positive.

In short, it tells us about the majority charge carriers in a particular type of semiconductor.

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