AlN/GaN MOS-HEMTs technology.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The ever increasing demand for higher power devices at higher frequencies has prompted much research recently into the aluminium nitride/gallium nitride high electron mobility transistors (AlN/GaN HEMTs) in response to theoretical predictions of higher performance devices. Despite having superior material properties such as higher two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG) densities and larger breakdown field as compared to the conventional aluminium gallium nitride (AlGaN)/GaN HEMTs, the AlN/GaN devices suffer from surface sensitivity, high leakage currents and high Ohmic contact resistances. Having very thin AlN barrier layer of ∼ 3 nm makes the epilayers very sensitive to liquids coming in contact with the surface. Exposure to any chemical solutions during device processing degrades the surface properties, resulting in poor device performance. To overcome the problems, a protective layer is employed during fabrication of AlN/GaN-based devices. However, in the presence of the protective/passivation layers, formation of low Ohmic resistance source and drain contact becomes even more difficult.
In this work, thermally grown aluminium oxide (Al2O3) was used as a gate di- electric and surface passivation for AlN/GaN metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS)-HEMTs. Most importantly, the Al2O3 acts as a protection layer during device processing. The developed technique allows for a simple and effective wet etching optimisation using 16H3PO4:HNO3:2H2O solution to remove Al from the Ohmic contact regions prior to the formation of Al2O3 and Ohmic metallisation. Low Ohmic contact resistance (0.76Ω.mm) as well as low sheet resistance (318Ω/square) were obtained after optimisation.
Significant reduction in the gate leakage currents was observed when employing an additional layer of thermally grown Al2O3 on the mesa sidewalls, particularly in the region where the gate metallisation overlaps with the exposed channel edge. A high peak current ∼1.5 A/mm at VGS=+3 V and a current-gain cutoff frequency, fT , and maximum oscillation frequency, fMAX , of 50 GHz and 40 GHz, respectively, were obtained for a device with 0.2 μm gate length and 100 μm gate width. The measured breakdown voltage, VBR, of a two-finger MOS-HEMT with 0.5μm gate length and 100 μm gate width was 58 V.
Additionally, an approach based on an accurate estimate of all the small-signal equivalent circuit elements followed by optimisation of these to get the actual element values was also developed for AlN/GaN MOS-HEMTs. The extracted element values provide feedback for further device process optimisation. The achieved results indicate the suitability of thermally grown Al2O3 for AlN/GaN-based MOS-HEMT technology for future high frequency power applications.
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