/foh'toh kon'duk tiv"i tee/, n. Physics.the increase in the electrical conductivity of a substance, often nonmetallic, caused by the absorption of electromagnetic radiation.[1925-30; PHOTO- + CONDUCTIVITY]
* * *▪ physicsthe increase in the electrical conductivity of semiconductors (semiconductor) and insulators (insulator) when they are exposed to light of sufficient energy. Photoconductivity serves as a tool to understand the internal processes in these materials, and it is also widely used to detect the presence of light and measure its intensity in light-sensitive devices.Certain crystalline semiconductors, such as silicon, germanium, lead sulfide, and cadmium sulfide, are strongly photoconductive. Normally, these materials are relatively poor electrical conductors because they have only a small number of electrons that are free to move under a voltage (in contrast to metals such as gold, which have many free current-carrying electrons). When light shines on such a semiconductor, however, it is absorbed and imparts energy to some electrons. This frees them to pass more easily from atom to atom, which increases the current flow under an applied voltage. If the light is removed, the freed electrons return to their bound state and the current flow decreases. Photoconductive materials form the basis of light-controlled electrical switches, certain television cameras, copying machines that use electrophotographic reproduction, infrared radiation detectors, and other devices. See also photoelectric effect.
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