In this study, gallium nitride (GaN)-based metal–insulator–semiconductor (MIS) ultraviolet (UV) photodetectors (PDs) with a gallium oxide (GaOx) gate layer formed by alternating current bias-assisted photoelectrochemical oxidation of n-GaN are presented. By introducing the GaOx gate layer to the GaN MIS UV PDs, the leakage current is reduced and a much larger UV-to-visible rejection ratio (RUV/vis) of spectral responsivity is achieved. In addition, a bias-dependent spectral response results in marked increase of the RUV/vis with bias voltage up to ~105. The bias-dependent responsivity suggests the possible existence of internal gain in of the GaN MIS PDs.
© 2011 OSA
Gallium nitride (GaN) is one of the most promising materials for the fabrication of high-sensitivity visible-blind ultraviolet (UV) photodetectors (PDs) [1,2]. The wide band gap property of GaN also makes it a potential candidate for fabricating UV PDs for application in extreme conditions. In the past decade, various types of GaN-based PDs have been proposed [1,2]. Compared with bipolar junction PDs, the layer structure of Schottky barrier (SB) PD devices is much easier to fabricate. However, leakage current in SB PDs is higher because of the large thermionic emission current in SB PDs, as compared to the diffusion current in bipolar PDs for a given built-in voltage. To reduce the leakage current, and consequently the detectivity, in GaN-based SB PDs, a high Schottky barrier height at the metal/semiconductor interface must be achieved [3–5]. In addition to the work function of contact metals, the leakage current of SB PDs also depends strongly on the properties of the topmost semiconductor layer. Previous studies have shown that the gate leakage current in GaN-based SB diodes can be significantly reduced by utilizing a low-temperature-grown GaN layer inserted between the metal contact and high-temperature-grown GaN layer [5,6]. Dielectric films, including SiO2, Si3N4, Ta2O5, Ga2O3, and Gd2O3, on GaN have been adopted to fabricate GaN-based metal–insulator–semiconductor (MIS) diodes . The gate dielectric layers in GaN-based MIS structures can be prepared by physical vapor deposition, thermal oxidation, or chemical vapor deposition. In the present study, the gate dielectric oxide of gallium oxide (GaOx) was grown on n-GaN epitaxial layers by alternating current (AC) bias-assisted photoelectrochemical (PEC) oxidation of n-GaN in H2O. This approach for the formation of GaOx layers differs from the conventional PEC method, which has a low growth rate and uses diluted phosphorus acid (H3PO4) and alkaline solutions . The AC bias-assisted PEC oxidation features a low-temperature process and a high growth rate to form the GaOx layer on GaN epitaxial layers. In the current paper, the optical and electrical properties of the fabricated GaN-based MIS PDs with GaOx gate layer formed by AC bias-assisted PEC oxidation are reported.
The GaN wafers used in this study were grown on c-face (0001) sapphire (Al2O3) substrates in a vertical low-pressure organometallic vapor phase epitaxy (OMVPE) reactor (Emcore D180). The layered structure of the GaN epitaxial wafers comprised a 30 nm thick GaN nucleation layer grown at 550 °C, a 2.3 μm thick Si-doped n+-GaN (n = 6 × 1018cm−3) layer, and a 1 μm thick lightly doped n-GaN (n = 3 × 1017cm−3) grown at 1050 °C. An Hg lamp with a power intensity of 350 mW/cm2 was used as the UV light source in the PEC oxidation experiments. Before oxidation, deionized H2O was first sprayed onto the surface of the mold. The front side of n-GaN sample was then adhered to the front side of the mold by gradually increasing the imprint pressure to 9 kg/cm2 in order to fill the mold pattern entirely with H2O. For the AC bias-assisted process, each bias cycle comprised a positive voltage pulse followed by a negative voltage pulse at a frequency of 2 Hz and a duty cycle of 90%. The growth rate of the PEC GaOx layers was 13.5 nm/min when the AC bias was 5 V. The GaOx layers were selectively grown on the n-GaN samples as the insulator layers for fabricating GaN MIS PDs. A semitransparent Ni/Au (5/10 nm) contact layer was deposited on the GaOx layer to serve as the gate metal, while Cr/Au (50/200 nm) contact metal was subsequently deposited onto the exposed n+-GaN layer and gate metal to serve as the Ohmic contact and electrode pad, respectively [9,10]. In this study, GaN MIS diodes with 70 nm and 130 nm thick GaOx gate layers were labeled PD-1 and PD-2, respectively. Figure 1(a) and (b) show the schematic structure of the fabricated devices and a representative photograph of the fabricated devices, respectively. Devices without the GaOx gate layer were also prepared (labeled PD-3) for comparison. The room temperature current-voltage (I-V) characteristics of the fabricated PDs were measured by an HP4156 semiconductor parameter analyzer. Spectral responsivity of these GaN MIS PDs was measured using a Xe arc lamp and a calibrated monochromator as the light source.
3. Results and discussions
Figure 2 shows the typical reverse I-V curves taken in dark and under illumination (λ = 350 nm) from the proposed PDs. The dark current of PD-3 increases rapidly as the reverse bias increases, and is much larger than the PD-1 and PD-2. The observed dark current in the PD-1 is near constant when the reverse bias does not exceed 3 V. When the reverse bias exceeds 4 V, the dark current increases rapidly with an increase of bias, behaving similarly to PD-3. However, as the thickness of GaOx gate layer increases to 130 nm (i.e., PD-2), the dark current shows only a slight increase, as low as ~10−11 A, even when the bias reaches 10 V. This could be attributed to the fact that the resistive GaOx gate layers between Ni and GaN could result in a thicker and higher potential barrier, as compared to conventional Schottky barrier PDs (i.e., PD-3). In other words, the insertion layer of GaOx is able to effectively suppress the dark current, indicating that the PEC-formed gallium oxides possess a reasonably good insulating property . Under illumination, the relative higher photocurrent-to-dark-current ratio (Rphoto/dark) is observable in both PD-1 and PD-2. For example, the contrast ratios are around 2 × 104 and 9 × 106 for PD-1 and PD-2, respectively, when the PDs are biased at −3 V. At the same condition, the Rphoto/dark obtained from the PD-3 is only 10. In addition to the relative low dark current, the photocurrents of PD-1 and PD-2 are significant higher than that of PD-3. The relative higher photocurrent may have been due to the fact that the GaOx gate layers play the role of passivation layer to deaden the surface defects, thereby reducing the recombination events occurring at the metal/semiconductor interface during the light illumination. In other words, the passivated surface defects no longer recombine with the photogenerated carriers, leading to an enhancement of photocurrent in the PD-1 and PD-2 in comparison to those of PD-3. The passivation effect becomes more significant as the thickness of GaOx gate layers increases. As revealed in extant literature, the insertion of a thin SiO2 layer at the metal–GaN interface results in a significant decrease of the dark current density; however, the photocurrent is also reduced. This reduced photocurrent could be attributed to the fact that most photogenerated holes in reverse-bias condition are blocked by the SiO2 layer with band gap of ~9 eV. Only portions of the holes are transported to the metal electrode via tunneling process through the defect states within the gap of SiO2. In this study, a significant reduction of photocurrent, compared with the PD-3, was not observed from the PD-1 and PD-2. This result is very different from the conventional GaN-based MIS PDs with SiO2 or SiNx as insulators [11–13]. This difference could be attributed the fact that the band gap of GaOx is significantly lower than that of SiO2. A possible band gap of the GaOx layer is approximately 4.9 eV at room temperature. As shown in Fig. 1(c), the relative lower bang gap may allow the photogenerated carriers transporting via the mechanism of thermionic-field emission associated with defect-related states within the band gap of GaOx layer. The defects might be the oxygen and gallium vacancies, which play the donor- and acceptor-like states, respectively [14,15]. In this study, the dark current decreased with an increase of the thickness of GaOx gate layer. However, the photocurrent would also decrease when the thickness of GaOx gate layer exceeded 130 nm. In other words, the optimized thickness of the GaOx layer for the application of GaN UV detector was around 130 nm.
Figure 3 shows the typical spectral responses of PD-1, PD-2, and PD-3. The cutoff was found to occur at around 365 nm (the absorption edge of GaN) for all the fabricated PDs. Under reverse bias and with incident light wavelength of 350 nm, the measured responsivities of PD-1 and PD-2 were found to be much higher than that of PD-3. This result is consistent with the photocurrents displayed in the Fig. 2. Such a dramatic difference of responsivity between the MIS type (i.e., PD-1 and PD-2) and the GaOx-free PDs (i.e., PD-3) could be attributed to the fact that the PD-3 may have relatively more trap states at the Ni/ GaN interface for recombination with the photogenerated carriers. However, marked bias-dependent spectral responses were observed from the fabricated PDs. For UV illumination, electron-hole pairs were generated from the near band edge absorption. The origin of bias-dependent spectral responses in PD-3 could be due to the difference of transit times of holes and electrons through the trap states at the Ni/GaN interface. For PD-1 and PD-2, the origin of bias-dependent spectral responses could be due the accumulation of photogenerated holes at the GaOx/GaN interface, as schematically shown in Fig. 1(c). This mechanism is similar to the origin of high optical gain observed from heterojunction bipolar transistors . As shown in Fig. 2, the relative lower dark current of PD-1 and PD-2 also reflect the results of high UV-to-visible rejection ratio (RUV/vis). As shown in Fig. 3, the values of RUV/vis (350/450 nm) at a given reverse bias of 4 V are approximately 3 × 104, 3 × 105 and 40 for PD-1, PD-2, and PD-3, respectively. The high RUV/vis of PD-2 were comparable with conventional GaN-based UV PDs with RUV/vis of around 103~105 [1–6]. However, as revealed in extant literatures, the RUV/vis values of GaN-based MIS UV PDs with insulating gate layer were well below 104 [11–13,17]. A significant bias-dependent spectral response in the visible region was observed from the PD-3. This result can be attributed to the photoresponse caused from the defects at the Ni/GaN interface of PD-3. The defect-related trap states existing within the band gap of GaN could result in appreciable photoresponse. This phenomenon occurs even if the exciting photon energy is below band gap, especially when the reverse bias is increased because the Schottky barrier thickness decreases with an increase of reverse bias, thereby enhancing trap-assisted tunneling of photogenerated carriers. For PD-1 and PD-2, the surface defect-related states may be passivated by the GaOx gate layer. As a result, below-band gap photon excitation did not generate pronounced carriers to contribute photocurrent. Clearly, the bias-dependent spectral response in visible region could be further suppressed as the thickness of GaOx gate layer is increased to 130 nm.
GaN-based MIS UV photodetectors with a GaOx gate layer formed by alternating current bias-assisted photoelectrochemical oxidation of n-GaN in H2O have been demonstrated in the current paper. The insertion of GaOx gate layer between the gate metal (Ni/Au) and n-GaN has been proven to significantly reduce leakage current and lead to a significant enhancement of UV-to-visible rejection ratio (RUV/vis). In addition, a marked bias-dependent spectral response in visible region could be effectively suppressed using the insertion layer; thus, the degradation of RUV/vis at high reverse bias becomes insignificant.
Financial support from the Bureau of Energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs of Taiwan, ROC. through grant No. 99-D0204-6 is appreciated. The authors would also like to acknowledge the National Science Council for the financial support of the research Grant Nos. NSC 97-2221-E-006-242-MY3, 98-2221-E-218-005-MY3 and 100-3113-E-006-015.
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