(Invited) Radiation-Induced Defect Mechanisms in GaN HEMTs

Wednesday, October 14, 2015: 10:30
Ellis East (Hyatt Regency)
A. D. Koehler (Naval Research Laboratory), T. J. Anderson, P. Specht (University of California, Berkeley), B. D. Weaver, J. D. Greenlee (NRC Postdoctoral Fellow Residing at NRL), M. J. Tadjer, D. I. Shahin (University of Maryland), K. D. Hobart (Naval Research Laboratory), and F. J. Kub (Naval Research Laboratory)
Gallium nitride (GaN) high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) have been recognized as a key enabling technology for power amplifiers and high power converters for next-generation military and civilian systems.  The superiority of GaN over Si benefits applications such as wireless communications, and electronic warfare attack, protection, and support systems.  Also, GaN HEMTs also are excellent candidates for applications in radiation intensive environments such as counter weapons of mass destruction system survivability and space systems.  The objective is to investigate radiation-induced defects on GaN HEMTs, leading to understanding about the defect formation mechanisms and their impact on performance and reliability of GaN HEMTs.

AlGaN/GaN HEMT epitaxial layers were grown on Si substrates by metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD).  The GaN buffer layer is >1 μm and the AlxGa1-xN (x=27%) barrier layer is 17 nm thick.  HEMTs were exposed to 2 MeV protons at room temperature in a tandem Van de Graaff accelerator iteratively, up to a fluence of 6 x 1014 H+/cm2.  I-V, C-V, and Hall measurements were performed to characterize the radiation-induced changes in HEMT performance, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) is used to identify radiation-induced defect mechanisms.

Bombardment of 2 MeV protons causes a uniform distribution of vacancies, interstitials, and Frenkel pairs, with minimal larger damage cascades.  The stopping range of 2 MeV is much larger than the epitaxial GaN thickness. The AlGaN/GaN interface of an as-fabricated HEMT has an abrupt junction between the AlGaN and GaN.  However, after irradiation, atomic recoil of displaced atoms results in intermixing of the AlGaN and GaN layers.  The irradiated HEMT has an increased surface roughness.  Since the AlGaN/GaN interface is where the two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG) forms, the surface roughness impacts the 2DEG mobility.  The Hall mobility measured on Van der Pauw structures begins to degrade at a fluence of 5 x 1013 H+/cm2.  This mobility degradation is attributed to the increase in surface roughness between the AlGaN and GaN layers.  In addition, TEM analysis revealed where certain threading dislocations exist, that after proton irradiation, Ni from the Schottky Ni gate diffuses down into the dislocation.  This impacts the HEMT performance by changing leakage paths, but also, voids were observed in the Ni gate, where the nickel had diffused into the semiconductor at the gate edges.