Developing ohmic contacts to Gallium Nitride for high temperature applications

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Gallium Nitride (GaN), being a wide-bandgap semiconductor, shows its advantage over the conventional semiconductors like Silicon and Gallium Arsenide for high temperature applications, especially in the temperature range from 300°C

Gallium Nitride (GaN), being a wide-bandgap semiconductor, shows its advantage over the conventional semiconductors like Silicon and Gallium Arsenide for high temperature applications, especially in the temperature range from 300°C to 600°C. Development of stable ohmic contacts to GaN with low contact resistivity has been identified as a prerequisite to the success of GaN high temperature electronics. The focus of this work was primarily derived from the requirement of an appropriate metal contacts to work with GaN-based hybrid solar cell operating at high temperature.

Alloyed Ti/Al/Ni/Au contact and non-alloyed Al/Au contact were developed to form low-resistivity contacts to n-GaN and their stability at high temperature were studied. The alloyed Ti/Al/Ni/Au contact offered a specific contact resistivity (ρc) of 6×10-6 Ω·cm2 at room temperature measured the same as the temperature increased to 400°C. No significant change in ρc was observed after the contacts being subjected to 400°C, 450°C, 500°C, 550°C, and 600°C, respectively, for at least 4 hours in air. Since several device technology prefer non-alloyed contacts Al/Au metal stack was applied to form the contacts to n-type GaN. An initial ρc of 3×10-4 Ω·cm2, measured after deposition, was observed to continuously reduce under thermal stress at 400°C, 450°C, 500°C, 550°C, and 600°C, respectively, finally stabilizing at 5×10-6 Ω·cm2. Both the alloyed and non-alloyed metal contacts showed exceptional capability of stable operation at temperature as high as 600°C in air with low resistivity ~10-6 Ω·cm2, with ρc lowering for the non-alloyed contacts with high temperatures.

The p-GaN contacts showed remarkably superior ohmic behavior at elevated temperatures. Both ρc and sheet resistance (Rsh) of p-GaN decreased by a factor of 10 as the ambient temperature increased from room temperature to 390°C. The annealed Ni/Au contact showed ρc of 2×10-3 Ω·cm2 at room temperature, reduced to 1.6×10-4 Ω·cm2 at 390°C. No degradation was observed after the contacts being subjected to 450°C in air for 48 hours. Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) contacts, which has been widely used as current spreading layer in GaN-base optoelectronic devices, measured an initial ρc [the resistivity of the ITO/p-GaN interface, since the metal/ITO ρc is negligible] of 1×10-2 Ω·cm2 at room temperature. No degradation was observed after the contact being subjected to 450°C in air for 8 hours.

Accelerated life testing (ALT) was performed to further evaluate the contacts stability at high temperatures quantitatively. The ALT results showed that the annealed Ni/Au to p-GaN contacts is more stable in nitrogen ambient, with a lifetime of 2,628 hours at 450°C which is approximately 12 times longer than that at 450°C in air.