Impact of electrochemical process on the degradation mechanisms of AlGaN/GaN HEMTs
Author(s)Gao, Feng, Ph. D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Physics in reliability of AlGaN/GaN HEMTs
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
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AlGaN/GaN high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) constitute a new generation of transistors with excellent electrical characteristics and great potential to replace silicon technology in the future, especially in high power and high frequency applications. However, the poor long term reliability of these devices is an important bottleneck for their wide market insertion and limits their advanced development. This thesis tackles this problem by focusing on understanding the physics behind various degradation modes and providing new quantitative models to explain these mechanisms. The first part of the thesis, Chapters 2 and 3, reports studies of the origin of permanent structural and electrical degradation in AlGaN/GaN HEMTs. Hydroxyl groups (OH-) from the environment and/or adsorbed water on the III-N surface are found to play an important role in the formation of surface pits during the OFF-state electrical stress. The mechanism of this water-related structural degradation is explained by an electrochemical cell formed at the gate edge where gate metal, the II-N surface and the passivation layer meet. Moreover, the permanent decrease of the drain current is directly linked with the formation of the surface pits, while the permanent increase of the gate current is found to be uncorrelated with the structural degradation. The second part of the thesis, Chapters 4 and 5, identifies water-related redox couples in ambient air as important sources of dynamic on-resistance and drain current collapse in AlGaN/GaN HEMTs. Through in-situ X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), direct signature of the water-related species is found at the AlGaN surface at room temperature. It is also found that these species, as well as the current collapse, can be thermally removed above 200 °C in vacuum conditions. An electron trapping mechanism based on H₂O/H₂ and H₂O/O₂ redox couples is proposed to explain the 0.5 eV energy level commonly attributed to surface trapping states. Moreover, the role of silicon nitride passivation in successfully removing current collapse in these devices is explained by blocking the water molecules away from the AlGaN surface. Finally, fluorocarbon, a highly hydrophobic material, is proven to be an excellent passivation to overcome transient degradation mechanisms in AlGaN/GaN HEMTs.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, 2014.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 115-121).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Materials Science and Engineering.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Materials Science and Engineering.