Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Hadis Morkoç


AlGaN/GaN and InAlN/GaN-based heterojunction field effect transistors (HFETs) have demonstrated great high power and high frequency performance. Although AlGaN/GaN HFETs are commercially available, there still remain issues regarding long-term reliability, particularly degradation and ultimately device failure due to the gate-drain region where the electric field peaks. One of the proposed degradation mechanisms is the inverse-piezoelectric effect that results from the vertical electric field and increases the tensile strain. Other proposed mechanisms include hot-electron-induced trap generation, impurity diffusion, surface oxidation, and hot-electron/phonon effects. To investigate the degradation mechanism and its impact on DC, microwave, and noise performance, comprehensive stress experiments were conducted in both un-passivated and passivated AlGaN/GaN HFETs. It was found that degradation of AlGaN/GaN HFETs under reverse-gate-bias stress is dominated by inverse-piezoelectric effect and/or hot-electron injection due to gate leakage. Degradation under on-state-high-field stress is dominated by hot-electron/phonon effects, especially at high drain bias. Both effects are induced by the high electric field present during stress, where the inverse-piezoelectric effect only relates to the vertical electric field and the hot-electron effect relates to the total electric field. InAlN/GaN-based HFETs are expected to have even better performance as power amplifiers due to the large 2DEG density at the InAlN/GaN interface and better lattice-matching. Electrical stress experiments were therefore conducted on InAlN/GaN HFETs with indium compositions ranging from 15.7% to 20.0%. Devices with indium composition of 18.5% were found to give the best compromise between reliability and device performance. For indium compositions of 15.7% and 17.5%, the HFET devices degraded very fast (25 h) under on-state-high-field stress, while the HFET devices with 20.0% indium composition showed very small drain. It was also demonstrated that hot-electron/phonon effects are the major degradation mechanism for InAlN/GaN HFETs due to a large 2DEG density under on-state operations, whereas the inverse-piezoelectric effect is very small due to the small strain for the near lattice-matched InAlN barrier. Compared to lattice-matched InAlN/GaN HFETs, AlGaN/GaN HFETs have much larger strain in the barrier and about half of the drain current level; however, the hot electron/hot phonon effects are still important, especially at high drain bias.


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Date of Submission

December 2013

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