Diluted magnetic semiconductors (DMS) are semiconducting alloys whose lattice is partly made of substitutional magnetic ions. The most extensively studied materials of this type are the alloys, in which a fraction of the group II sublattice is replaced at random by Mn. The entire family of ternary alloys, along with their crystal structure and corresponding ranges of composition, is listed in Table I. Over the past decade, these alloys have attracted a growing scientific interest because of new fundamental effects in semiconductor physics and magnetism in these materials and because of their potential applications in optical nonreciprocal devices, solid state lasers, flat panel displays, infrared detectors, and other optoelectronic applications.
The increasing popularity of this field can be attributed to the broad variety of fascinating problems offered by the study of the alloys. To begin with, there is an interest in the semiconducting properties per se — for instance, the understanding of the electronic band structure and its variation with alloy composition. As in other ternary alloys, the band parameters and the lattice constant can be “tuned” by controlling the alloy composition, opening the door to band-gap engineering and lattice matching in the context of epitaxially grown superlattices and het-erostructures. The random distribution of Mn atoms with a well-characterized antiferromagnetic Mn-Mn exchange interaction provides an ideal system for studying fundamental questions in disordered magnetism. The sp-d exchange interaction between the spins of band electrons and the localized moments of the Mn atoms constitutes a unique interplay between semiconductor physics and magnetism. This leads to unusual magneto-transport and magneto-optic phenomena such as an extremely large Faraday rotation, giant negative magneto-resistance, and a magnetic-field-induced metal-insulator transition. Finally, the potential technological importance of DMS is also being recognized. For example, the large Faraday rotation holds promise of DMS applications as optical isolators, modulators, and circulators. We will briefly introduce some of the exciting research problems offered by the study of DMS. More detailed information is available in several extensive reviews and compendia.