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The Hall Effect

The Van der Pauw Technique

The Hall Effect

The Hall effect was discovered in 1874, by E. H. Hall and can be used to measure the mobile carrier density and the sign of the charge carriers.

An electric current is passed through the semiconductor block via contacts at either end while a magnetic field B is applied perpendicularl to both the surface and the electric current as shown in Figure 1. The Hall voltage is recorded perpendicular to the direction of current flow.

The force acting on the moving charge carriers in a magnetic field is the Lorentz force.

Britney with the latest sample of GaAs for some Hall measurements.

Figure 1. Schematic diagram of the Hall effect. An n-type semiconductor with a current applied across and magnetic field perpendicular to the current exhibits a potential difference perpendicular to both the current and the magnetic field, which is known as the Hall effect.

The force acting on the moving charge carriers in a magnetic field is the Lorentz force.


F, v and B form a right-handed Cartesian co-ordinate system. Since we have arranged v and B to be perpendicular to each other, the resultant force is also perpendicular to both v and B as shown in (2).


The force in (2) is reduced to two simple equations which describe the motion of the carriers.

(3 a)

(3 b)

The movement of charge carriers sets up an electric field Ey in the opposite direction to the Lorentz force and this field continues to grow as the charge carriers move to one side of the semiconductor until it balances the Lorentz force. In this situation we have


The electric field can be calculated from the Hall voltage, VH, since for a constant electric field,


where w is the width of the sample.

Since the velocity can be expressed in terms of the current density, Ey can be written as


Where RH is the Hall constant which is negative if the majority carriers are electrons and positive if the majority carriers are holes. It must be pointed out that, the velocity of the carriers is the result of a statistical measurement and non-linear effects of the magnetic field can alters the results obtained experimentally. Therefore a correction term rH, the Hall coefficient factor is included in the Hall constant, which can usually take a value between 1 and 1.5.


If the sample contains both electrons and holes, then the Hall constant is given by


Since we measure VH and set the values or measure the values of Bz, I, A and w, we can calculate the n, the carrier density. In addition to being able to measure the charge of the majority carriers the Hall effect can be used to measure the Hall mobility. With a measurement of the Hall coefficient the mobility can be found.


Where r is the resistivity of the sample which is most commonly obtained using the Van der Pauw technique.

Van der Pauw Technique

The Van der Pauw technique can be used to measure resistivity of a thin, arbitrary-shaped, simply connected, (i.e. one without holes or non-conducting islands) sample with four Ohmic contacts placed on the periphery. The objective of the Van der Pauw technique is to measure the sheet resistance Rs of the sample. Van der Pauw demonstrated that there are two characteristics resistances, RA and RB, associated with the four terminals.






Where V43 is the voltage measured across terminals 4 and 3, V14 is the voltage measured across terminals 1 and 4. I12 is the current measure across terminals 1 and 2. I23 is the current measured across terminals 2 and 3. RA and RB relate to the sheet resistance through the Van der Pauw equation.


which can be solved numerically for Rs. The resistivity can then be calculated using


To obtain the two characteristic resistances, one applies a dc current I into contact 1 and out of contact 2 and measures the voltage V43 from contact 4 to contact 3. Next, one applies the current I into contact 2 and out of contact 3 while measuring the voltage V14 from contact 1 to contact 4. RA and RB are calculated by means of the following expressions


The objective in the Hall measurement in the Van-der Pauw technique is to determine the sheet carrier density ns by measuring the Hall voltage VH. The Hall voltage measurement consists of a series of voltage measurements with a constant current and a constant magnetic field B applied perpendicular to the plane of the sample. The sheet carrier density ns can be calculated via


To ensure the quality of the result obtained from the Hall measurement several factors must be considered. Primary concerns are Ohmic contacts quality and size, sample uniformity and accurate thickness determination and thermomagnetic effects due to nonuniform temperature and photoconductive and photovoltaic effects which can be minimised by measuring in a dark environment. Also the lateral dimensions must be large compared to the size of the contacts and the sample thickness. Finally, one must accurately measure sample temperature, magnetic field intensity, electric current and voltage.


[1] R. P. Feynman, Feynman Lectures on Physics, 3 , ch. 14, (19

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