skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on May 1, 2025

Title: Temperature-induced degradation of GaN HEMT: An in situ heating study

High-power electronics, such as GaN high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs), are expected to perform reliably in high-temperature conditions. This study aims to gain an understanding of the microscopic origin of both material and device vulnerabilities to high temperatures by real-time monitoring of the onset of structural degradation under varying temperature conditions. This is achieved by operating GaN HEMT devices in situ inside a transmission electron microscope (TEM). Electron-transparent specimens are prepared from a bulk device and heated up to 800 °C. High-resolution TEM (HRTEM), scanning TEM (STEM), energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and geometric phase analysis (GPA) are performed to evaluate crystal quality, material diffusion, and strain propagation in the sample before and after heating. Gate contact area reduction is visible from 470 °C accompanied by Ni/Au intermixing near the gate/AlGaN interface. Elevated temperatures induce significant out-of-plane lattice expansion at the SiNx/GaN/AlGaN interface, as revealed by geometry-phase GPA strain maps, while in-plane strains remain relatively consistent. Exposure to temperatures exceeding 500 °C leads to almost two orders of magnitude increase in leakage current in bulk devices in this study, which complements the results from our TEM experiment. The findings of this study offer real-time visual insights into identifying the initial location of degradation and highlight the impact of temperature on the bulk device’s structure, electrical properties, and material degradation.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
American Vaccum Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    While radiation is known to degrade AlGaN/GaN high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs), the question remains on the extent of damage governed by the presence of an electrical field in the device. In this study, we induced displacement damage in HEMTs in both ON and OFF states by irradiating with 2.8 MeV Au4+ion to fluence levels ranging from1.72×1010to3.745×1013ions cm−2, or 0.001–2 displacement per atom (dpa). Electrical measurement is donein situ, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM), energy dispersive x-ray (EDX), geometrical phase analysis (GPA), and micro-Raman are performed on the highest fluence of Au4+irradiated devices. The selected heavy ion irradiation causes cascade damage in the passivation, AlGaN, and GaN layers and at all associated interfaces. After just 0.1 dpa, the current density in the ON-mode device deteriorates by two orders of magnitude, whereas the OFF-mode device totally ceases to operate. Moreover, six orders of magnitude increase in leakage current and loss of gate control over the 2-dimensional electron gas channel are observed. GPA and Raman analysis reveal strain relaxation after a 2 dpa damage level in devices. Significant defects and intermixing of atoms near AlGaN/GaN interfaces and GaN layer are found from HRTEM and EDX analyses, which can substantially alter device characteristics and result in complete failure.

    more » « less
  2. The demand for high power and high-frequency radio frequency (RF) power amplifiers makes AlGaN/GaN high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) an attractive option due to their large critical field, high saturation velocity, and reduced device footprint as compared to Si-based counterparts. However, due to the high operating power densities, intense device self-heating occurs, which degrades the electrical performance and compromises the device’s reliability. The self-heating behavior of AlGaN/GaN HEMTs is known to be not solely a function of the dissipated power but is highly bias-dependent. As the operation of RF power amplifiers involves alteration of the device operation from fully-open to pinched-off channel conditions, it is critical to experimentally map the full channel temperature profile as a function of bias conditions. However, such measurement is difficult using optical thermography techniques due to the lack of optical access underneath the gate electrode, where the peak temperature is expected to occur.

    To address this challenge, an AlGaN/GaN HEMT employing a transparent gate made of indium tin oxide (ITO) was fabricated, which enables full channel temperature mapping using Raman spectroscopy. It was found that the maximum channel temperature rise under a partially pinched-off condition is more than ∼93% higher than that for an open channel condition, although both conditions would lead to an identical power dissipation level. The channel peak temperature probed in an ITO-gated device (underneath the gate) is ∼33% higher than the highest channel temperature that can be measured for a standard metal-gated AlGaN/GaN HEMT (i.e., next to the metal gate structure) operating under an identical bias condition. This indicates that one may significantly underestimate the device’s thermal resistance when solely relying on performing thermal characterization on the optically accessible region of a standard AlGaN/GaN HEMT. The outcomes of this study are important in terms of conducting a more accurate lifetime prediction of the device lifetime and designing thermal management solutions.

    more » « less
  3. Materials with in-plane electrical anisotropy have great potential for designing artificial synaptic devices. However, natural materials with strong intrinsic in-plane electrical anisotropy are rare. We introduce a simple strategy to produce extremely large electrical anisotropy via grating gating of a semiconductor two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG) of AlGaN/GaN. We show that periodically modulated electric potential in the 2DEG induces in-plane electrical anisotropy, which is significantly enhanced in a magnetic field, leading to an ultra large electrical anisotropy. This is induced by a giant positive magnetoresistance and a giant negative magnetoresistance under two orthogonally oriented in-plane current flows, respectively. This giant electrical anisotropy is in situ tunable by tailoring both the grating gate voltage and the magnetic field. Our semiconductor device with controllable giant electrical anisotropy will stimulate new device applications, such as multi-terminal memtransistors and bionic synapses. 
    more » « less
  4. Thermal annealing is a widely used strategy to enhance semiconductor device performance. However, the process is complex for multi-material multi-layered semiconductor devices, where thermoelastic stresses from lattice constant and thermal expansion coefficient mismatch may create more defects than those annealed. We propose an alternate low temperature annealing technique, which utilizes the electron wind force (EWF) induced by small duty cycle high density pulsed current. To demonstrate its effectiveness, we intentionally degrade AlGaN/GaN high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) with accelerated OFF-state stressing to increase ON-resistance ∼182.08% and reduce drain saturation current ∼85.82% of pristine condition at a gate voltage of 0 V. We then performed the EWF annealing to recover the corresponding values back to ∼122.21% and ∼93.10%, respectively. The peak transconductance, degraded to ∼76.58% of pristine at the drain voltage of 3 V, was also recovered back to ∼92.38%. This recovery of previously degraded transport properties is attributed to approximately 80% recovery of carrier mobility, which occurs during EWF annealing. We performed synchrotron differential aperture x-ray microscopy measurements to correlate these annealing effects with the lattice structural changes. We found a reduction of lattice plane spacing of (001) planes and stress within the GaN layer under the gate region after EWF annealing, suggesting a corresponding decrease in defect density. Application of this low-temperature annealing technique for in-operando recovery of degraded electronic devices is discussed.

    more » « less
    more » « less