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From Atoms to Systems

Gallium Nitride Research

Researching novel device design and device fabrication

The photonics sources team at Tyndall has worked on

gallium nitride since 1998. Its main interests are in
novel device design and device fabrication. It is also
active in searching for ways to reduce the defect
density in wafer materials; in the development of
highly reflective ohmic contacts; in the exploration of
electroplated contacts; in the fabrication of Schottky
diode devices for power applications, and in the
exploitation of the opportunities that are afforded by
the use of bulk gallium nitride substrates. The team
has access to modern fabrication and characterisation
facilities within Tyndall. For the materials growth it
is dependant on external partners. Above: Temescal electron beam evaporator

Gallium nitride

Gallium nitride is the material of choice for solid-state light emitters covering the UV, blue, and green parts of the
spectrum. With the help of phosphors white light can also be produced. Gallium nitride devices are finding their way
into mass-markets, but the technology is yet in its infancy and there is considerable scope for performance improve-
ments. We collaborate with academic and industrial partners to advance the technology.

Device design

The team has designed and fabricated resonant cavity LEDs, address-
able LED arrays, and LEDs with enhanced light extraction efficiency.
For the development of resonant cavity (RC) LEDs it coordinated a
European research consortium called “AGETHA”. This consortium
developed RC-LEDs for data communications through plastic optical
fibre (POF).

Above: TEM cross section of a Pd-Ag The development of addressable LED arrays involved the integration
contact on p-type GaN (TEM courtesy of silicon driver circuitry with a gallium nitride LED array. The LED
of dr. Marie-Antoinette Poisson, Thales) array was flip-chip mounted onto the silicon. The silicon driver chips
Above: Integrated assembly (LED array and silicon were fabricated in the silicon fabrication facility within Tyndall.
driver circuitry)
The team is also involved in the design and fabrication of Schottky
diodes and laser diodes. The Schottky diodes are developed for the
European Space Agency, to be used as shunt diodes on solar panels.

Defect reduction

A specific problem with gallium nitride materials is the high defect

density in them. This is due to the large mismatch (in lattice constant
and in thermal expansion coefficient) between the substrate and the
gallium nitride epilayers. The defects affect the device reliability,
especially at high current densities, and also the light output at UV
wavelengths. The team has filed a patent application on a defect re-
Above: SEM image of the surface of the LED array. duction technique that is based on the selective removal of defected
Pixel size is 200 μm material followed by an overgrowth with high quality material.

From Atoms to Systems

Ohmic contacts

The team has developed highly reflective contact metallisations to

p-type gallium nitride, based on palladium and silver. To analyse
these contacts, circular TLM (transmission line method) patterns
have been used. Such patterns are useful for the determination of
the specific contact resistivity. However, for contacts with resistivity
< 1x10-3 Ω.cm2, TLM results on p-type GaN need to be handled with
caution, as the lateral current spreading length into the contact
decreases to less than 1 μm. This means that only a very thin
contact strip along the contact perimeter contributes to current
flow, and any irregularities on the contact perimeter outline, even
on a sub-micron scale, affect the results. The team is working on
an alternative evaluation method to assess contacts to p-type GaN
with resistivities < 1x10-3 Ω.cm2. Work on electroplated contact
metallisations and electroplated layers for flip-chip packaging is
also being undertaken.

TEM cross-section of a PdAg contact on p-type GaN, the
insert showing a depth profile
The team utilises the central fabrication facilities at Tyndall for
its device fabrication. These facilities include optical and electron
beam lithography, separate electron beam evaporation systems for
metals and for optical coatings; PECVD deposition for dielectric
layers, ICP etching, rapid thermal annealing, wafer thinning
and polishing, wafer scribing and dicing, and device packaging.
Test facilities comprise a probe station for automated L-I-V
measurements, a camera system for near field measurements, a
communications signal analyser for bandwidth measurements, an
integrating sphere, and several spectrometers. Tyndall colleagues
provide access to characterisation techniques such as AFM, XRD,
micro-Raman, ellipsometry, and also access to reliability assessment
techniques such as temperature/humidity cycling, salt spray
testing, and highly accelerated stress testing (HAST). Tyndall has
furthermore relevant expertise in photonics theory and in thermal Above: Solder balls deposited with the solder dispense
modelling. system

Above: Results of a thermal simulation of a flip-chip LED assembly. a) top view. b) Side view. c) Temperature scale. White boxes show the outline
of the LED chip. Heat dissipation: 2W into a 20 μm wide periphery of the p-contact.

For More Information on these topics contact:

Brian Corbett
E: brian.corbett@tyndall.ie
T: +353 21 4904380