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Mark Beeler

Quantum engineering of III-nitride nanostructures for infrared optoelectronics

Published on 9 June 2015

Thesis presented June 09, 2015

GaN/Al(Ga)N nanostructures have emerged during the last decade as promising materials for new intersubband (ISB) optoelectronics devices, with the potential to cover the whole infrared (IR) spectrum. These technologies rely on electron transitions between quantum-confined states in the conduction band of nanostructures –quantum wells (QWs), quantum dots (QDs), nanowires (NWs). The large conduction band offset between III-N compounds, and their sub-ps ISB recovery times make them appealing for ultrafast telecommunication devices and for fast IR optoelectronics in the 3-5 µm band. Furthermore, the large energy of GaN LO phonon (92 meV) opens prospects for room-temperature THz quantum cascade lasers and ISB devices covering the 5-10 THz band, inaccessible to GaAs. A variety of GaN-based ISB optoelectronic devices have recently been demonstrated, including photodetectors, switches and electro-optical modulators. However, a number of issues remain open, particularly concerning the extension towards longer wavelengths and the improvement of electrically pumped devices performance. One of the main challenges to extend the GaN-ISB technology towards the far-IR comes from the polarization-induced internal electric field, which imposes an additional confinement that increases the energetic distance between the electronic levels in the QWs. In order to surmount this constraint, I propose alternative multi-layer QW designs that create a pseudo-square potential profile. The robustness of the designs in terms of variations due to growth uncertainties, and the feasibility of their integration in devices architectures requiring resonant tunneling transport are discussed. Experimental realizations by molecular-beam epitaxy displaying TM-polarized THz absorption are presented. A quantum cascade laser design incorporating pseudo-square QWs is introduced. An alternative approach to obtain square potential profiles is the use of nonpolar orientations. In this thesis, I compare GaN/Al(Ga)N multi-quantum wells grown on a and m nonpolar bulk GaN showing that the best results in terms of structural and optical (interband and ISB) performance are obtained for m-plane structures. Room-temperature ISB absorption in the range of 1.5–5.8 µm is demonstrated, the longer wavelength limit being established by the second order of the Reststrahlen band in GaN. As ISB devices are pushed towards higher efficiencies, the control of carrier relaxation becomes a key aspect for device engineering. Longer intraband lifetimes have been proven to exist in laterally confined systems, which motivates studies to incorporate NWs as active elements in ISB devices. Furthermore, the large NW surface-to-volume ratio allows misfit strain to be elastically released, extending the viable active region size and composition beyond the limits of planar systems or QDs. In this thesis, I report the experimental observation of TM-polarized IR absorption assigned to the s-pz intraband transition in Ge-doped GaN/AlN nanodisks inserted in self-assembled GaN NWs. Results are compared with theoretical calculations accounting for the 3D strain distribution, surface charges and many-body effects.

Infrared, Intersubband, Nanowires, Thin films, Nitrides, Quantum engineering

On-line thesis.