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I've been attending talks in some condensed matter groups, they always talk about "subbands", but what exactly are they? What's the difference between the "normal" conduction and valence bands? Thank you.

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There are typically many bands for electron states in a material, because there are many electrons per atom.

In a semiconductor, all the bands with higher energy than the band gap are the “conduction band,” and all the states with lower energy are the “valence band.” The bands making up the conduction band and valence bands are the subbands.

Usually, the interesting behavior results just from electrons being in the conduction band or holes being in the valence band. But sometimes, the subbands matter. There can be low energy electron transitions between subband states (inter-subband transitions), for example. In these, if the electron was in the “valence band”, it remains in the “valence band” but is now in a different subband.

If you have more information of the context in which you heard the term, I could probably expand this a little further.

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  • $\begingroup$ Or, one has the light hole and heavy hole bands in many semiconductors, and then things like split-off bands. Subbands are very common. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 20 '20 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JonCuster indeed. And they show up in a wide variety of contexts. But often, too, the “subband” terminology will be discarded in favor of more specific terms, like as you mention, “light hole” or “heavy hole” bands. $\endgroup$
    – Gilbert
    Aug 20 '20 at 22:43

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