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Caroline Botum Lim

GaN/AlGaN heterostructures for infrared optoelectronics: Polar vs nonpolar orientations

Published on 26 June 2017

Thesis presented June 26, 2017

Intersubband (ISB) transitions are energy transitions between electronic states in a quantum well. GaN/AlGaN nanostructures have emerged as promising materials for new ISB optoelectronics devices, with the potential to cover the whole infrared spectrum. Their large conduction band offset (~1.8 eV for GaN/AlN) and sub-picosecond ISB recovery times make them appealing for ultrafast photonics devices in the short-wavelength infrared (SWIR, 1-3 µm), and mid-wavelength infrared (MWIR, 3-8 µm) regions. Moreover, the large energy of GaN longitudinal-optical phonon (92 meV, 13 µm) opens prospects for room-temperature ISB devices covering the 5-10 THz band, inaccessible to GaAs.The work described in this thesis has aimed at improving the performance and understanding of the material issues involved in the extension of the GaN/AlGaN ISB technology to the THz range. On the one hand, ISB photodetection requires n-type doping of the active nanostructures. In this work, we explore Si and Ge as potential n-type dopants for GaN. On the other hand, the presence of internal electric fields in the confinement direction of polar c-plane heterostructures constitutes one of the main challenges of the GaN-based ISB technology. In this thesis, we address the use of nonpolar a or m crystallographic orientations as an alternative to operate without the influence of these electric fields. Regarding the use of Si and Ge as n-type dopants for GaN, we show that the use of Ge as a dopant does not affect the morphology, mosaicity and photoluminescence properties of the doped GaN thin films. In the c-plane GaN/AlGaN heterostructures, no effect on the band-to-band properties was observed, but the structures with high lattice mismatch showed better mosaicity when doped with Ge. Regarding the alternative of nonpolar GaN, we compared GaN/AlN multi-quantum wells grown on a and m nonpolar free-standing GaN substrates. The best results in terms of structural and optical (both band-to-band and ISB) performance were obtained for m-plane structures. They showed room-temperature ISB absorption covering the whole SWIR spectrum, with optical performance comparable to polar c-plane structures, in spite of a too low structural quality to consider device processing. By introducing Ga in the AlN barriers, the lattice mismatch of the structure is reduced, leading to lower densities of cracks. Such m-plane structures showed room-temperature ISB absorption tunable in the 4.0-5.8 µm MWIR range, but still with structural defects. Finally, we extended the study to the far-infrared range, using AlGaN barriers with much lower Al content. As a result, the studied m-plane structures displayed an excellent crystalline quality, without extended defects, and showed low-temperature ISB absorption in the 6.3 to 37.4 meV (1.5 to 9 THz) range. This result constitutes an experimental demonstration of the feasibility of GaN devices for the 5-10 THz band, forbidden to GaAs-based technologies.

Quantum wells, Semiconductor, Infrared, Nanostructures, Nitride, Intersubband

On-line thesis.