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Akhil Ajay

GaN/AlGaN nanowires for quantum devices

Published on 25 September 2018

Thesis presented September 25, 2018

Due to its novel properties nanowires have emerged as promising building blocks for various advanced device applications. This work focuses on Intersubband (ISB) engineering of nanowires where we custom design GaN/(Al,Ga)N heterostructures to be inserted in a GaN nanowire to render it optically active in the infrared (IR) spectral region. ISB transitions refer to energy transitions between quantum confined levels in the conduction band of the nanostructure. All the structures analyzed in this thesis were synthesized by plasma-assisted molecular beam epitaxy.
Precise control of high doping levels is crucial for ISB devices. Therefore, we explored Ge as an alternative dopant for GaN and AlGaN, to replace commonly-used Si. We grew Ge-doped GaN thin films with carrier concentrations of up to 6.7 × 10 20 cm−3 at 300 K, well beyond the Mott density, and we obtained conductive Ge-doped AlxGa1-xN thin films with an Al mole fraction up to x = 0.66. In the case of GaN, the presence of Ge does not affect the growth kinetics or structural properties of the samples. However, in Ge doped AlxGa1-xN samples with x > 0.4 the formation of Ge rich clusters was observed, together with a drop in the carrier concentration.
Then, we performed a comparative study of Si vs. Ge doping in GaN/AlN heterostructures for ISB devices in the short-wavelength IR range. We considered both planar and nanowire architectures with identical doping levels and well dimensions. Based on this study, we concluded that both Si and Ge are suitable dopants for the fabrication of GaN/AlN heterostructures for the study of ISB optoelectronic phenomena, both in planar and nanowire heterostructures. Within this study, we reported the first observation of ISB absorption in Ge-doped GaN/AlN quantum wells and in Si-doped GaN/AlN nanowire heterostructures. In the case of nanowires, we obtained a record ISB absorption linewidth in the order of 200 meV. However, this value is still larger than that observed in planar structures, due to the inhomogeneities associated to the self-assembled growth process.
Trying to reduce the inhomogeneities while keeping the advantages of the nanowire geometry, we also presented a systematic analysis of ISB absorption in micro- and nanopillars resulting from top-down processing GaN/AlN planar heterostructures. We showed that, when the spacing of the pillar array is comparable to the probed wavelengths, photonic crystal resonances dominate the absorption spectra. However, when these resonances are at much shorter wavelengths than the ISB absorption, the absorption is clearly observed, without any degradation of its magnitude or linewidth.
We also explore the possibility to extend this nanowire technology towards longer wavelengths, to absorb in the mid-wavelength IR region. Using GaN/AlN nanowire heterostructures, we varied the GaN well width from 1.5 to 5.7 nm, which led to a red shift of the ISB absorption from 1.4 to 3.4 μm. Replacing the AlN barriers by Al0.4Ga0.6N, the reduction of polarization led to a further red shift of the ISB transitions to 4.5-6.4 μm.
The observation of ISB absorption in nanowire ensembles motivated us for the development of a nanowire-based quantum well infrared photodetector (NW-QWIP). The first demonstration of such a device, incorporating a GaN/AlN nanowire heterostructure that absorbs at 1.55 μm, is presented in this manuscript.

GaN/AlGaN, nanowires, molecular beam epitaxy, n-doping, nanowire devices, intersubband

On-line thesis.