Time-resolved deep ultraviolet (DUV) Photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy system has been employed to systematically monitor crystalline quality, identify the defects and impurities, and investigate the light emission mechanism in III-nitride semiconducting materials and photonic structures. A time correlated single photon counting system and streak camera with corresponding time resolutions of 20 and 2 ps, respectively, were utilized to study the carrier excitation and recombination dynamics. A closed cycle He-flow cryogenic system was employed for temperature dependent measurements. This system is able to handle sample temperatures in a wide range (from 10 to 900 K). Structural, electrical, and morphological properties of the material were monitored by x-ray diffraction (XRD), Hall-effect measurement, and atomic force microscopy (AFM), respectively. Most of the samples studied here were synthesized in our laboratory by metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD). Some samples were bulk AlN synthesized by our collaborators, which were also employed as substrates for homoepilayer growth.
High quality AlN epilayers with (0002) XRD linewidth as narrow as 50 arcsec and screw type dislocation density as low as 5x106 cm -2 were grown on sapphire substrates. Free exciton transitions related to all valence bands (A, B, and C) were observed in AlN directly by PL, which allowed the evaluation of crystal field (ΔCF) and spin-orbit (ÄSO) splitting parameters exerimentally. Large negative Δ CF and, consequently, the difficulties of light extraction from AlN and Al-rich AlGaN based emitters due to their unique optical polarization properties have been further confirmed with these new experimental data. Due to the ionic nature of III-nitrides, exciton-LO phonon Frohlich interaction is strong in these materials, which is manifested by the appearance of phonon replicas accompanying the excitonic emission lines in their PL spectra. The strength of the exciton-phonon interactions in AlN has been investigated by measuring the Huang-Rhys factor. It compares the intensity of the zero phonon (exciton emission) line relative to its phonon replica.
AlN bulk single crystals, being promising native substrate for growing nitride based high quality device structures with much lower dislocation densities (<104 cm-2), are also expected to be transparent in visible to UV region. However, available bulk AlN crystals always appear with an undesirable yellow or dark color. The mechanism of such undesired coloration has been investigated. MOCVD was utilized to deposit ∼0.5 μm thick AlN layer on top of bulk crystal. The band gap of strain free AlN homoepilayers was 6.100 eV, which is ∼30 meV lower compared to hetero-epitaxial layers on sapphire possessing compressive strain. Impurity incorporation was much lower in non-polar m-plane growth mode and the detected PL signal at 10 K was about an order of magnitude higher from a-plane homo-epilayers compared to that from polar c-plane epilayers.
The feasibility of using Be as an alternate p-type dopant in AlN has been studied. Preliminary studies indicate that the Be acceptor level in AlN is ∼330 meV, which is about 200 meV shallower than the Mg level in AlN.
Understanding the optical and electronic properties of native point defects is the key to achieving good quality material and improving overall device performance. A more complete picture of optical transitions in AlN and GaN has been reported, which supplements the understanding of impurity transitions in AlGaN alloys described in previous reports.