Effect of Proton Irradiation on DC Performance and Reliability of Circular-Shaped AlGaN/GaN High Electron Mobility Transistors
AlGaN/GaN HEMT heterostructures were grown on c-plane sapphire by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). The layer structure included a thin AlGaN nucleation layer followed with a 2 µm thick undoped GaN buffer topped by a 25 nm thick unintentionally doped Al0.28GaN layer. Mesa isolation was achieved by using an inductively coupled plasma system with Ar/Cl2-based discharges. The Ohmic contacts were formed by lifting-off e-beam evaporated Ti (200 Å)/Al (1000 Å)/Ni (400 Å)/Au (800 Å). Gates with the dimension of 1.5 µm × 314 µm were defined by lift-off of e-beam deposited Ni/Au metallization. The contacts were annealed at 850°C for 45 s under a flowing N2 ambient in Heatpulse 610T system. The final step was deposition of e-beam evaporated Ti/Au (300 Å/1200 Å) interconnection contacts. Devices were exposed to protons with 5 MeV and different doses of 2×1014 proton/cm2. The device DC performance was characterized using an HP 4156 parameter analyzer. The breakdown voltage was conducted with a Tektronix 370A curve tracer. FLOODS TCAD finite-element solver was used to simulate the electrical field around the gate edge to confirm the experimental result.
As shown in Figure 1, drain current IVs, IDSS, decreased from 454 to 398 mA/mm after irradiation with a proton dose of 2×1014 cm-2. Moreover, resistance between source and drain increased and extrinsic transconductance decreased after irradiation. However, the drain breakdown voltage increased from 150 to 230 V. The improvement of the breakdown voltage was due to the reduction of electric field at the edge of the gate, caused by the defects generated by proton irradiation at AlGaN/GaN interface, which was confirmed with simulation, as shown in Figure 2.