PHOTOLUMINESCENCE STUDY OF NON-POLAR III-NITRIDE SEMICONDUCTORS
Nitride semiconductors are promising for applications in opto-electronic devices due to their wide band gap that is adjustable by appropriate choice of alloy composition. To date, many III-nitride devices have been demonstrated, such as light-emitting diodes, lasers, etc. Most opto-electronic devices make use of the optical transition from conduction band to valence band. Moreover, the large conduction band offset achieved by III-nitrides makes it possible to take advantage of transitions inside the conduction band or valence band, which provide much more freedom for band engineering. Although many III-nitrides based opto-electronic devices have been invented and implemented in commercial use, there is still a need for more compact, rugged, higher efficiency devices with lower cost. Many challenges of III-nitride semiconductors are related to material defects, lattice mismatch and internal polarization fields. Photoluminescence is a convenient technique to characterize sample quality and optical properties. It does not destroy the samples or need any electrical contacts. Therefore, it is commonly used in qualitative analysis of III-nitrides. This thesis focuses on non-polar m-plane III-nitrides structures, because this crystal orientation eliminates internal polarization fields in heterostructures. We first performed a photoluminescence study of a series of m-plane InGaN thin films with In compositions up to 24.5%. Evidence of large In composition fluctuations was observed. This inhomogeneity of In composition contributes to the non-monotonic temperature dependence of photoluminescence peak energy and linewidth. A large drop of internal quantum efficiency when temperature increases to room temperature was observed, which indicates the presence of a large number of non-radiative recombination centers. This is due to low temperature growth of InGaN by plasma assisted molecular beam epitaxy. The InGaN film with 11% has a linewidth close to theoretical calculations for InGaN with random In distribution, and much smaller than many reported polar c-plane InGaN films with comparable In compositions, which suggests improved material quality. This In composition was selected for the design of InGaN/AlGaN superlattices.
In order to avoid the disadvantage of strain buildup, we designed nearly strain-balanced non-polar m-plane InGaN/AlGaN structures with In composition of about 9%. Steady-state photoluminescence and time-resolved photoluminescence were performed on these structures. A significant discrepancy between measured and calculated PL peak positions was observed. This is likely due to the In composition fluctuations and quantum confinement in quantum wells. The broadening mechanism of the PL in the superlattices was investigated. The low-temperature linewidth of undoped superlattices is comparable to many previously reported values for m-plane InGaN/GaN quantum wells. Similar to InGaN films, the internal quantum efficiency drops dramatically when temperature reaches room temperature. Regions with high In compositions act as localization centers for excitons. An average localization potential depth of 21 meV was estimated for undoped superlattices. This small potential depth does not reduce the degree of polarization of emitted light, and contributes to the narrow linewidth. A fast decay time of 0.3 ns at 2 K was observed for both doped and undoped superlattices. This value is much smaller than that for polar c-plane InGaN/GaN superlattices. The localization of excitons was found to be strong and not affected by magnetic field at low temperatures. Compared with undoped superlattices, the doping sheets reduce decay pathways of excitons in doped superlattices.