Doctor of Philosophy
OPTICAL CHARACTERIZATION OF INGAN HETEROSTRUCTURES FOR BLUE LIGHT EMITTERS AND VERTICAL CAVITY LASERS: EFFICIENCY AND RECOMBINATION DYNAMICS
By Serdal Okur, Ph.D.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Virginia Commonwealth University, 2014.
Major Director: Ümit Özgür, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
This thesis explores radiative efficiencies and recombination dynamics in InGaN-based heterostructures and their applications as active regions in blue light emitters and particularly vertical cavities. The investigations focus on understanding the mechanism of efficiency loss at high injection as well as developing designs to mitigate it, exploring nonpolar and semipolar crystal orientations to improve radiative efficiency, integration of optimized active regions with high reflectivity dielectric mirrors in vertical cavity structures, and achieving strong exciton-photon coupling regime in these microcavities for potential polariton lasing. In regard to active regions, multiple double heterostructure (DH) designs with sufficiently thick staircase electron injection (SEI) layers, which act as electron coolers to reduce the overflow of hot electrons injected into the active region, were found to be more viable to achieve high efficiencies and to mitigate the efficiency loss at high injection. Such active regions were embedded in novel vertical cavity structure designs with full dielectric distributed Bragg reflectors (DBRs) through epitaxial lateral overgrowth (ELO), eliminating the problems associated with semiconductor bottom DBRs having narrow stopbands and the cumbersome substrate removal process. Moreover, the ELO technique
allowed the injection of carriers only through the high quality regions with substantially reduced threading dislocation densities compared to regular GaN templates grown on sapphire.
Reduced electron-hole wavefunction overlap in polar heterostructures was shown to hamper the efficiency of particularly thick active regions (thicker than 3 nm) possessing three-dimensional density of states needed for higher optical output. In addition, excitation density-dependent photoluminescence (PL) measurements showed superior optical quality of double heterostructure (3 nm InGaN wells) active regions compared to quantum wells (2 nm InGaN wells) suggesting a minimum limit for the active region thickness. Therefore, multiple relatively thin but still three dimensional InGaN active regions separated by thin and low barriers were found to be more efficient for InGaN light emitters. Investigations of electroluminescence from light emitting diodes (LEDs) incorporating multi DH InGaN active regions (e.g. quad 3 nm DH) and thick SEIs (two 20 nm-thick InGaN layers with step increase in In content) revealed higher emission intensities compared to LEDs with thinner or no SEI. This indicated that injected electrons were cooled sufficiently with thicker SEI layers and their overflow was greatly reduced resulting in efficient recombination in the active region. Among the structures considered to enhance the quantum efficiency, the multi-DH design with a sufficiently thick SEI layer constitutes a viable approach to achieve high efficiency also in blue lasers.
Owing to its high exciton binding energy, GaN is one of the ideal candidates for microcavities exploiting the strong exciton-photon coupling to realize the mixed quasiparticles called polaritons and achieve ideally thresholdless polariton lasing at room temperature. Angle-resolved PL and cathodoluminescence measurements revealed large Rabi splitting values up to 75 meV indicative of the strong exciton-photon coupling regime in InGaN-based microcavities with bottom semiconductor AlN/GaN and a top dielectric SiO2/SiNxDBRs, which exhibited quality
factors as high as 1300. Vertical cavity structures with all dielectric DBRs were also achieved by employing a novel ELO method that allowed integration of a high quality InGaN cavity active region with a dielectric bottom DBR without removal of the substrate while forming a current aperture through the ideally defect-free active region. The full-cavity structures formed as such were shown to exhibit clear cavity modes near 400 and 412 nm in the reflectivity spectrum and quality factors of 500.
Although the polar c-plane orientation has been the main platform for the development of nitride optoelectronics, significant improvement of the electron and hole wavefunction overlap in nonpolar and semipolar InGaN heterostructures makes them highly promising candidates for light emitting devices provided that they can be produced with good crystal quality. To evaluate their true potential and shed light on the limitations put forth by the structural defects, optical processes in several nonpolar and semipolar orientations of GaN and InGaN heterostructures were investigated. Particularly, stacking faults were found to affect significantly the optical properties, substantially influencing the carrier dynamics in nonpolar (1-100), and semipolar (1-101) and (11-22)GaN layers. Carrier trapping/detrapping by stacking faults and carrier transfer between stacking faults and donors were revealed by monitoring the carrier recombination dynamics at different temperatures, while nonradiative recombination was the dominant process at room temperature. Although it is evident that nonpolar (1-100)GaN and semipolar (11-22)GaN require further improvement of material quality, steady-state and time-resolved PL measurements support that (1-101)-oriented GaN templates and InGaN active regions exhibit optical performance comparable to their highly optimized polar c-plane counterparts, and therefore, are promising for vertical cavities and light emitting device applications.
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