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• Intuitive description.

– What are p-n junctions?

p-n junctions are formed by starting with a Si wafer (or ’substrate’) of a given type (say: B-doped p-type,

to ﬁx the ideas) and ‘diﬀusing’ or ‘implanting’ impurities of opposite type (say: n-type, as from a gas source

of P – such as phosphine – or implanting As ions) in a region of the wafer. At the edge of the diﬀused (or

implanted) area there will be a ‘junction’ in which the p-type and the n-type semiconductor will be in direct

contact.

– What happens to the junction at equilibrium?

Consider the idealized situation in which we take an n-type Si crystal and a p-type Si crystal and bring

them together, while keeping them ‘grounded’, that is, attached to ‘contacts’ at zero voltage. At ﬁrst, the

conduction and valence band edges will line up, while the Fermi level will exhibit a discontinuity at the junction.

But now electrons are free to diﬀuse from the n-region to the p-region, ‘pushed’ by the diﬀusion term D

n

∇n

in the DDE. Similarly, holes will be free to diﬀuse to the n region. As these diﬀusion processes happen, the

concentration of extra electrons in the p-region will build up, as well as the density of extra holes in the n

region. These charges will grow until they will build an electric ﬁeld which will balance and stop the diﬀusive

ﬂow of carriers. Statistical mechanics demands that at equilibrium the Fermi level of the system is unique and

constant. Therefore, the band-edges will ‘bend’ acquiring a spatial dependence. This is illustrated in the left

frame of the ﬁgure in the next page.

Note:

1. Deep in the n-type region to the right and in the p-type region to the left the semiconductor remains

almost neutral: The contacts have provided the carriers ‘lost’ during the diﬀusion mentioned above, so that

n = N

D

in the ‘quasi-neutral n region and p = N

A

in the quasi-neutral p region.

2. There is a central region which is ‘depleted’ of carriers: Electrons have left the region 0 ≤ x ≤ l

n

, holes

have left the region −l

p

≤ x < 0, so that for l

p

≤ x ≤ l

n

we have np < n

2

i

. This is called the

‘transition region’ or, more often, the ‘depletion region’ of the junction.

ECE609 Spring 2008 105

3. The voltage ‘barrier’ built by the difusion of carriers upon putting the n and p regions in contact with each

other is called the ‘built-in’ potential, V

bi

(denoted by Φ

0

by Colinge and Colinge). It is easy to calculate

it, since it will be given by the diﬀerence between the equilibrium Fermi levels in the the two regions:

V

bi

= E

Fn0

−E

Fp0

= E

i

+k

B

T ln

_

N

D

n

i

_

−E

i

+k

B

T ln

_

N

A

n

i

_

= k

B

T ln

_

N

D

N

A

n

2

i

_

.

(1)

ECE609 Spring 2008 106

– What happens to a biased junction?

Let’s now apply a bias V

a

to the junction. We consider V

a

positive when positive bias is applied to the

p-region, as illustrated in the ﬁgure. If V

a

> 0 (forward bias), the ﬁeld in the depletion region will be

reduced, so that it will not balance anymore the diﬀusion current of electrons ﬂowing to the left. Thus, electron

supplied from the contact at the extreme right will replenish those electrons entering the p-type region. This

will result in a current density J

3

. Having entered the p region, electrons will eventually recombine with holes.

The contact at left will provide the holes necessary for this recombination process, giving rise to a component

J

4

of the total current density. A similar sequence of events will happen to holes: Some will diﬀuse to the

n region (yielding the component J

1

of the current density) recombining there with electrons provided by a

current density J

2

from the right-contact.

If, instead, we apply a negative V

a

(reverse bias), the ﬁeld in the depletion region will increase and the

associated drift current will be larger than the diﬀusion current. However, the ﬂow of electrons from the p

region will be negligibly small, since there are very few electrons in p-doped Si. Similarly for holes in the n

region. Therefore, the reverse current will be very small. This shows that p-n junctions behave like diodes,

rectifying the current ﬂow.

• Equilibrium.

Let’s consider the band-bending and carrier densities at equilibrium.

– Poisson equation. First, the Poisson equation describing the band bending in the depletion rgion is:

d

2

φ(x)

dx

2

= −

e

s

(p −n +N

D

−N

A

) . (2)

This is a nonlinear equation since the carrier densities, p and n, depend on the potential φ(x) itself:

n(x) = n

i

exp

_

E

F,n0

−E

i,n0

+eφ(x)

k

B

T

_

= n

n0

e

eφ(x)/(k

B

T)

p(x) = n

i

exp

_

E

i,p0

−E

F,n0

−eφ(x)

k

B

T

_

= p

p0

e

−eφ(x)/(k

B

T)

, (3)

ECE609 Spring 2008 107

where n

n0

and p

p0

are the electron and hole densities in the quasi-neutral n and p regions, respectively.

– Depletion approximation. We can simplify Poisson equation, Eq. (2), by employing the ‘depletion

approximation’: Let’s assume that the electric ﬁeld vanishes outside the depletion region and let’s also ignore

the charge due to free carriers in the depletion region l

p

≤ x ≤ l

n

(indeed we will have N

+

D

>> n for

0 ≤ x ≤ l

n

and N

−

A

>> p for −l

p

≤ x < 0, since we have depletion of free carriers in these regions), so

that:

d

2

φ(x)

dx

2

= −

eN

D

s

for 0 ≤ x ≤ l

n

, (4)

d

2

φ(x)

dx

2

=

eN

A

s

for −l

p

≤ x < 0 , (5)

so that, using the boundary conditions

dφ

dx

¸

¸

¸

¸

x=−l

p

=

dφ

dx

¸

¸

¸

¸

x=l

n

= 0 ,

(expressing the fact that the electric ﬁeld vanishes at the edges of the depletion region) and φ(−l

p

) = φ

p0

,

φ(x = l

n

) = φ

n0

, expressing the fact that at the edges of the depletion region the carrier concentration

approaches the concentration in the quasi-neutral regions, we have:

φ(x) =

_

¸

¸

_

¸

¸

_

−

eN

D

2

s

(x −l

n

)

2

+ φ

n0

(0 ≤ x ≤ l

n

)

eN

A

2

s

(x +l

p

)

2

+ φ

p0

(−l

p

≤ x ≤ 0) .

(6)

Note that the maximum electric ﬁeld occurs at x = 0:

F

max

=

eN

A

s

l

p

=

eN

D

s

l

n

, (7)

ECE609 Spring 2008 108

where the last equality follows from charge neutrality which requires

N

A

l

p

= N

D

l

n

. (8)

– Depletion width. To calculate the width of the depletion region, note that

V

bi

= eφ

n0

−eφ

p0

. (9)

Moreover, the continuity of the potential at x = 0 implies, from Eq. (6):

0 = φ(0

−

) − φ(0

+

) = φ

p0

−φ

n0

+

eN

A

2

s

l

2

p

+

eN

D

2

s

l

2

n

. (10)

Using now the charge-neutrality condition, Eq. (8), this becomes

0 = φ

p0

−φ

n0

+

eN

A

2

s

N

2

D

N

2

A

l

2

n

+

eN

D

2

s

l

2

n

. (11)

Inserting into this equation the expression for φ

p0

−φ

n0

from Eq. (9) and using V

bi

from Eq. (1), we have:

V

bi

= k

B

T ln

_

N

A

N

D

n

2

i

_

=

e

2

2

s

N

D

N

A

(N

A

+N

D

) l

2

n

, (12)

so that:

l

n

=

_

2

s

N

A

V

bi

e

2

N

D

(N

A

+N

D

)

_

1/2

. (13)

Similarly:

l

p

=

_

2

s

N

D

V

bi

e

2

N

A

(N

A

+N

D

)

_

1/2

. (14)

ECE609 Spring 2008 109

– Asymmetric junction. In the simpler case of a very highly asymmetric junction (for example: N

A

= 10

15

cm

−3

and N

D

= 10

19

cm

−3

, we can ignore N

A

with respect to N

D

in Eqns. (13) and (14) above, so that:

l

p

≈

_

2

s

V

bi

e

2

N

A

_

1/2

, l

n

≈

_

2

s

N

A

V

bi

e

2

N

2

D

_

1/2

<< l

p

. (15)

So, the heavily-doped n-region exhibits essentially no depletion. This is a general property: The larger the

concentration of free carriers, the smaller the voltage which can drop in the region. In the limit of a metal, we

know that no electric ﬁeld can be sustained, because any voltage drop will be eﬀectively screened by the large

concentration of free carriers.

• Oﬀ equilibrium: Shockley’s equation.

Let’s apply a bias V

a

to the junction. We shall ﬁrst consider the ideal case of no generation/recombination in

the depletion region (ideal diode). We shall later consider deviations from this ideal condition.

– Ideal diode: No generation-recombination in depletion region.

Let’s make the following simplifying assumptions:

1. The concentrations of free carriers injected into the quasi-neutral regions are small enough so that we can

neglect their charge compared to the charge of the majority carriers when solving Poisson equation (low-level

injection).

2. The concentration of free carriers everywhere is small enough so that we can use Maxwell-Boltznmann

statistics (that is, the high-T limit) instead of the full Fermi-Dirac statistics.

3. The quasi-neutral regions are inﬁnitely long.

4. Finally, there’s no electric ﬁeld in the quasi-neutral regions, so that only diﬀusion controls the current-ﬂow

in these regions.

Also, the calculation of all of the components of the current density J

1

through J

4

in the ﬁgure (right frame

at page 106) is diﬃcult. However, we know that J

2

= J

1

and J

3

= J

4

, so we need to calculate only the

diﬀusion currents in the quasi-neutral regions J

1

and J

3

. Moreover, it will be convenient to compute J

1

(that

is, the hole current J

p

before it starts decreasing (due to recombination with electrons in the n region) at

x = l

n

and J

3

= J

n

at x = −l

p

(for the same reason).

ECE609 Spring 2008 110

First of all, we can follow again the same procedure we have followed above to obtain the width of the

depletion region simply replacing the built-in potential V

bi

with its value modiﬁed by the applied bias,

V

bi

−V

a

, obtaining:

l

n

=

_

2

s

N

A

(V

bi

−V

a

)

e

2

N

D

(N

A

+N

D

)

_

1/2

. (16)

Similarly:

l

p

=

_

2

s

N

D

(V

bi

−V

a

)

e

2

N

A

(N

A

+N

D

)

_

1/2

, (17)

Thus, the depletion region shrinks under forward bias (V

a

> 0) but grows under reverse bias (V

a

< 0).

From Eq. (3) and from the right frame of the ﬁgure at page 106 we see that for the concentrations of the free

minority carriers which spill-over (electrons spilling over into the p regions and holes spilling over into the n

region) we have (using assumption 2 above):

_

¸

_

¸

_

n(x = −l

p

) = n

n0

e

−e(V

bi

−V

a

)/(k

B

T)

= n

p0

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

p(x = l

n

) = p

n0

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

,

(18)

so that the excess carriers at the edges of the depletion region are:

_

¸

¸

_

¸

¸

_

δn(−l

p

) = n

p0

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

− 1

_

δp(l

n

) = p

n0

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

− 1

_

,

(19)

ECE609 Spring 2008 111

Using now assumption 4, the current in the quasi-neutral regions will be:

_

¸

_

¸

_

J

p

= −eD

p

dp

dx

(x > l

n

)

J

n

= eD

n

dn

dx

(x < −l

p

) .

(20)

The continuity equations for the hole current in the quasi-neutral n region (the component J

1

in the ﬁgure

for x > l

n

) and for the electron current in the quasi-neutral p region will be:

_

¸

¸

_

¸

¸

_

∂p

n

∂t

= −

1

e

∂J

p

∂x

−

p

n

−p

n0

τ

p

(x > l

n

)

∂n

p

∂t

=

1

e

∂J

n

∂x

−

n

p

−n

p0

τ

n

(x < −l

p

) ,

(21)

where τ

p

and τ

n

are the (recombination) lifetimes of the minority holes and electrons in the quasi-neutral

regions. Combining Eq. (20) and Eq. (21) we get:

_

¸

¸

¸

_

¸

¸

¸

_

∂p

n

∂t

= D

p

∂

2

p

n

∂x

2

−

p

n

−p

n0

τ

p

(x > l

n

)

∂n

p

∂t

= D

n

∂

2

n

p

∂x

2

−

n

p

−n

p0

τ

n

(x < −l

p

) .

(22)

At steady state, the general solutions are:

_

¸

_

¸

_

p

n

(x) = p

n0

+ A e

−x/L

p

+ B e

x/L

p

(x > l

n

)

n

p

(x) = n

p0

+ C e

−x/L

n

+ D e

x/L

n

(x < −l

p

) ,

(23)

where L

p

= (D

p

τ

p

)

1/2

and L

n

= (D

n

τ

n

)

1/2

are the hole and electron diﬀusion lengths in the quasi-

neutral regions and A, B, C, and D are integration constants to be determined by the boundary conditions.

ECE609 Spring 2008 112

The ﬁrst of these boundary conditions is determined by the concentrations of the minority carriers far away in

the quasi-neutral regions: p

n

(x → ∞) = p

n0

and n

p

(x → −∞) = n

p0

, which implies B = C = 0.

Another boundary condition results from the requirement that values of p

n

and n

p

at the edges of the

depletion region match the values p

n

(x = l

n

) and n

p

(x = −l

p

) given by Eq. (19) above, so that:

_

¸

¸

_

¸

¸

_

p

n

(x) = p

n0

+ p

n0

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

e

−(x−l

n

)/L

p

(x > l

n

)

n

p

(x) = n

p0

+ n

p0

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

e

(x+l

p

)/L

n

(x < −l

p

) .

(24)

Finally, by Eq. (20):

_

¸

¸

_

¸

¸

_

J

p

(x) =

eD

p

p

n0

L

p

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

e

−(x−l

n

)/L

p

(x > l

n

)

J

n

(x) =

eD

n

n

p0

L

n

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

e

(x+l

p

)/L

n

(x < −l

p

) .

(25)

It is important to note that these current densities vary with x because, for example, as J

p

(x) decreases as

x increases, the hole current it represents (J

1

in the ﬁgure at page 106) is transformed – via recombination

processes – into an electron current (J

2

in that ﬁgure). So, the total current will be independent of x. This

constant value can be obtained thanks to our assumption that there’s no generation/recombination in the

depletion region. In this case we can evaluate the currents in Eq. (25) at a position in which they have not

yet started to ‘decay’ due to recombination, so J

p

at x = l

n

and J

n

at x = −l

p

. Thefore the total current

will be:

J

total

= J

p

(l

n

) +J

n

(−l

p

) =

_

eD

p

p

n0

L

p

+

eD

n

n

p0

L

n

_

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

= J

s

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

,

(26)

where J

s

is the ‘saturation current density’ (the maximum current density we have under reverse bias, that is,

for V

a

→ −∞). Equation (26) is known as ‘Shockley’s equation’.

ECE609 Spring 2008 113

– Deviation from ideality: Generation/recombination in depletion region.

Let’s now consider the more general case in which GR processes are active in the depletion region. Recall that

these processes are proportional to np − n

2

i

(see the equation at the bottom of page 99), so let’s consider

the product np:

np = n

2

i

e

(E

Fn

−E

Fp

)/(k

B

T)

= n

2

i

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

. (27)

From the last equation at page 99 of the Lecture Notes, assuming σ

p

= σ

n

, and setting τ

0

= σv

th

N

TT

,

we have:

U

s

=

np −n

2

i

τ

0

_

p +n + 2n

i

cosh

_

E

T

−E

i

k

B

T

__ ≈

n

2

i

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

τ

0

(p +n + 2n

i

)

, (28)

the last step depending on the assumption that only traps at energy E

T

= E

i

contribute eﬀectively to the

GR processes.

Now, from current continuity, at steady state:

dJ

n

(x)

dx

= −

dJ

p

(x)

dx

= e U

s

(x) . (29)

We have calculated so far the current density J

n

at x = −l

p

which we assumed was identical to J

p

(x = l

n

)

thanks to the fact that there were no GR processes in the depletion region. We can now account for these

processes and evaluate the correction to the current they cause by integrating the equation for J

n

from −l

p

to l

n

:

J

n

(l

n

) = J

n

(−l

p

) + e

_

l

n

−l

p

dxU

s

(x) . (30)

Therefore for the total current we get:

J = J

p

(l

n

)+J

n

(l

n

) = J

p

(l

n

) + J

n

(−l

p

) + e

_

l

n

−l

p

dxU

s

(x) = J

s

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

+ J

GR

.

(31)

ECE609 Spring 2008 114

The term J

GR

– the ‘generation/recombination current density – acts as a correction to the Shockley term.

In order to avaluate it in a simple approximation, let’s note that J

GR

will be dominated by processes occurring

at a position where p +n is a minimum, as seen from Eq. (28). But since np is constant,

d(n +p) = 0 → dn = − dp , d(np) = 0 → pdn + ndp = 0 ,

and, combining these two equations, these conditions imply n = p. By Eq. (27),

n = p = n

i

exp

_

eV

a

2k

B

T

_

,

so that, from Eq. (28) we have:

U

s

≈

n

2

i

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

2n

i

τ

0

(1 + exp[eV

a

/(2k

B

T)]

=

n

i

2τ

0

_

e

eV

a

/(2k

B

T)

−1

_

. (32)

Assuming that U

s

takes this constant value – let’s call it U

max

– throughout the depletion region (not strictly

correct, we are going to overestimate J

GR

), we get for J

GR

:

J

GR

≈ e U

max

(l

n

+l

p

) = e (l

n

+l

p

)

n

i

2τ

0

_

e

eV

a

/(2k

B

T)

−1

_

. (33)

From Eqns. (26) and (31) we have:

J

tot

≈ J

s

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

+ e (l

n

+l

p

)

n

i

2τ

0

_

e

eV

a

/(2k

B

T)

−1

_

. (34)

For a small V

a

the GR term dominates, while the Shockley term takes over at larger bias. It is customary to

lump these two types of asymptotic behavior by writing:

J

tot

≈ J

sat

_

e

eV

a

/(nk

B

T)

−1

_

, (35)

ECE609 Spring 2008 115

where the index n (called ‘non-ideality factor’) takes a value close to 2 al low V

a

and drops to unity as V

a

grows larger.

• Short ‘base’ diodes.

The name ‘short base’ comes from bipolar transistors. These are two p-n junctions butted against each other

to form either p-n-p or n-p-n structures. The ‘central’ region is called ‘base’. Consider for simplicity just

the ﬁrst p-n junction of a p − n − p structure. When the n-type base is very long, we can study that p-n

junction as we have done above. But if the base is ‘short’ (compared to the diﬀusion length L

p

= (D

p

τ

p

)

1/2

of minority holes in the n region), then the boundary condition p

n

(x → ∞) = p

n0

used before Eq. (24)

must be replaced by p

n

(x = x

R

) = p

n0

, where x

R

is the edge of the ‘base’. In addition, the minority holes

may transit the base in a time so short that they will not be able to recombine. Thus, the current density of the

minority holes in the base will be constant. Since the DDEs imply

J

p

= eµ

p

pF − eD

p

dp

dx

, (36)

assuming as before that the ﬁeld vanishes in the quasi-neutral region (F = 0), we have:

p(x) = −

J

p

x

eD

p

+ B , (37)

where B is an integration constant which we can ﬁnd by imposing p(x = l

n

) = p

n0

exp[eV

a

/(k

B

T)]:

B = p

n0

exp

_

eV

a

k

B

T

_

+

J

p

l

n

eD

p

. (38)

But the boundary condition at x = x

R

we’ve considered before implies p

n

(x = x

R

) = p

n0

, or:

p(x = x

R

) = p

n0

= −

J

p

x

R

eD

p

+ p

n0

exp

_

eV

a

k

B

T

_

+

J

p

l

n

eD

p

=

J

p

(l

n

−x

R

)

eD

p

+ p

n0

exp

_

eV

a

k

B

T

_

.

(39)

ECE609 Spring 2008 116

Solving for J

p

we get:

J

p

=

eD

p

p

n0

x

R

−l

n

_

exp

_

eV

a

k

B

T

_

− 1

_

. (40)

Since the slope dp/dx is larger than in a long-base junction, the diﬀusion current will generally be larger.

• Junction capacitance.

We have so far limited our attention to the steady-state behavior of the device. We have seen that when we

move from the equilibrium situation (V

a

= 0) to forward or reverse bias (V

a

,= 0) we must move charges out

(reverse bias) or in (forward bias) the depletion region. In practical applications it is important to know how

quickly the device can adjust to a new bias condition. One way to estimate this ‘time response’ of the device is

to consider the capacitances involved. Capacitance is a measure of the charge stored per unit change of voltage.

A larger capacitance means that more charge must be moved in or out, so that – for a ﬁxed current – more

time is needed to complete the process. Thus, this translates into a longer delay in responding to the new bias

condition.

In a p-n junction two major capacitances are at play: 1. The capacitance associated with the charge which

must be moved in or out of the depletion region. This is called the ‘depletion capacitance’. 2. The capacitance

present under forward bias due to charges spilling over into the quasi-neutral regions. This is called ‘diﬀusion

capacitance’. Let’s now consider these two components separately.

– Depletion capacitance.

When the bias V

a

applied to the junction is varied, the width of the depletion region changes according to

Eqns. (16) and (17). The charge present in each depletion region due to the ionized dopants will be:

Q

depl

= eAN

D

l

n

= eAN

A

l

p

, (41)

where A is the cross-sectional area of the junction. There will also be a component of charge due to the

motion of majority carriers. But this happens very quickly (in the time scale of picoseconds or less), so we can

ignore this delay. Thus, by deﬁnition of capacitance,

C

depl

=

¸

¸

¸

¸

dQ

depl

dV

a

¸

¸

¸

¸

= eAN

D

¸

¸

¸

¸

dl

n

dV

a

¸

¸

¸

¸

= A

_

e

s

2

N

A

N

D

(N

A

+N

D

)

_

1/2

1

(V

bi

−V

A

)

1/2

, (42)

ECE609 Spring 2008 117

or, noticing that from Eqns. (16) and (17)

l

p

+ l

n

=

_

2

s

e

(V

bi

−V

a

)(N

A

+N

D

)

N

A

N

D

_

1/2

, (43)

we can rewrite Eq. (42) as:

C

depl

=

s

A

l

n

+l

p

, (44)

which is just the capacitance of a parallel-plate capacitor with a dielectric of permittivity

s

, with plates of

area A separated by a distance l

n

+l

p

.

– Diﬀusion capacitance.

The concentration of excess carriers diﬀusing in the quasi-neutral regions can be obtained from Eq. (24):

_

¸

¸

_

¸

¸

_

δp

n

(x) = p

n

(x) − p

n0

= p

n0

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

e

−(x−l

n

)/L

p

(x > l

n

)

δn

p

(x) = n

p

(x) − n

p0

= n

p0

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

e

(x+l

p

)/L

n

(x < −l

p

) .

(45)

The charge per unit area will be (considering only holes, a similar expression will hold for electrons):

Q

diff,p

= e

_

∞

l

n

δp

n

(x) dx = eL

p

p

n0

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

. (46)

Under strong forward bias, e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

>> 1, so:

C

diff,p

≈

dQ

diff,p

dV

a

=

e

2

L

p

p

n0

k

B

T

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

≈

e

k

B

T

L

2

p

D

p

J

p

(l

n

) =

e

k

B

T

τ

p

J

p

(l

n

) , (47)

where we have used Eq. (26) in the last step. Accounting now for the charge of the minority electrons diﬀusing

ECE609 Spring 2008 118

into the p quasi-neutral region:

C

diff

≈

dQ

diff,p

dV

a

+

dQ

diff,n

dV

a

=

e

k

B

T

[τ

p

J

p

(l

n

) + τ

n

J

n

(−l

p

)] . (48)

Note: This is the equation found in most textbooks. However, in Karl Hess’ book one ﬁnds instead:

C

diff

≈

e

2k

B

T

[τ

p

J

p

(l

n

) + τ

n

J

n

(−l

p

)] , (49)

where the additional factor of 1/2 is explicitly commented and the claim is made that Eq. (48) is in error.

This factor can be justiﬁed in hand-waving fashion by noting that the charges Q

diff,p

and Q

diff,n

are like

the charges in the two opposite plates of a capacitor, so that the capacitance should be given by the change

w.r.t. the applied bias of the average of the electron and hole charges. A more sophisticated and rigorous

explanation is given by S. E. Laux and K. Hess, IEEE Trans. Electron. Device vol. 46, no. 2 (February 1999),

p. 396. Their argument is based on the observation that – rigorously speaking – the diﬀusion charge extends

also inside the depletion region, so that the integration in Eq. (46) should extend from 0 to ∞, not from l

n

(and similarly for the expression for Q

diff,n

). Since as V

a

changes charges will leave the depletion region, we

will obtain a lower estimate for the charge, and so for the capacitance. In a way, this argument is equivalent to

our ‘hand-waving’ argument since both reduce to accounting for the charges throughout the entire junction,

not just in the quasi-neutral regions.

– Switching time.

Read the description of the ‘recovery time’ and ‘fall time’ in the text by Colinge and Colinge (pages 123-125).

• Hot electron eﬀects and junction breakdown.

The entire analysis we have carried out so far is based on the DDEs which, as we saw, assume that the

electrons and holes remain at thermal equilibrium. Let’s now consider a few issues which clearly go beyond this

assumption.

– Electron heating.

The ﬁrst issue is apparently a trivial one: At equilibrium, we may have a very large electric ﬁeld in the

ECE609 Spring 2008 119

depletion region, especially if we consider heavy doping. We saw at page 85 of the Lecture Notes that the

electron temperature can grow as F

2

as the electric ﬁeld increases. So, should we expect electron (and hole)

heating in the depletion region? A rigorous solution of the Boltzmann equation, most likely via a Monte Carlo

technique, can provide an answer. But a simple application of the hydrodynamic model (the third moment of

the BTE) is suﬃcient here: The relevant equation (bottom of page page 84) was

∂¸E)

∂t

≈

1

n

j F −

¸E)

ˆ τ

w

, (50)

or, setting (3/2)k

B

T

c

= ¸E),

∂T

c

∂t

≈

2

3k

B

n

j F −

T −T

c

ˆ τ

w

. (51)

At equilibrium no current ﬂows (j = 0), we are also at steady-state (∂T

c

/∂t = 0), so we must have T

c

= T,

which expresses the fact that at equilibrium the electron temperature is equal to the lattice temperature. In

other words, the ‘average’ electron energy remains (3/2)k

B

T. Occasionally, an electron will ‘roll down’ the

ﬁeld and gain kinetic energy above the equilibrium value. But there will also be electrons attempting to ‘climb

the potential hill’, so losing kinetic energy. On average, the two types of process will compensate each other.

– Impact ionization.

The current-voltage characteristics of a p-n junction show an exponentially increasing current as V

a

grows

positive, while the ‘leakage’ current density saturates to the value (from Eq. (26)):

J

s

=

_

eD

p

p

n0

L

p

+

eD

n

n

p0

L

n

_

, (52)

as the applied bias takes very large negative values (reverse bias). In practice, as V

a

grow suﬃciently large,

the reverse current ‘snaps’ to very large values. This is called ‘junction breakdown’ and it is mainly due to

avalanche multiplication initiated and sustained by impact ionization, and by Zener tunneling (which we shall

discuss below).

ECE609 Spring 2008 120

Ionization rate. As shown by the top ﬁgures at page 93, the frequency at which a carrier – electron or hole

– of kinetic energy E above a ‘threshold’ E

th

generates an electron-hole pair can be approximated by the

Keldysh formula:

1

τ

ii

(E)

=

B

τ

I

(E

th

)

_

E −E

th

E

th

_

p

, (53)

for E > E

th

, vanishing otherwise. The constant B is a dimensionless parameter and 1/τ(E

th

) is the

scattering rate at the threshold energy. The energy E

th

is the minimum energy (dictated by energy and

momentum conservation) a carrier must have in order to be able to generate electron-hole pairs. Clearly,

E

th

> E

G

by energy conservation. But momentum conservation may require that E

th

be much higher,

since the recoil carriers and the generated carriers will have to share the available momentum and so cannot in

general have vanishing energy. The coeﬃcient p at the exponent takes the value of 2 for semiconductors with

direct gap. In general, it takes values as high as 6 (as determined by complicated calculations). Lower values

for p imply a ‘soft threshold’ (carriers will ionize with slowly increasing probability as E grows beyond E

th

).

Large values of p imply a ‘hard threshold’: Ionization will occur almost immediately as the energy of the

carrier crosses the threshold energy. Phonon-assisted processes (in which one or more phonons are emitted or

absorbed during the ionization process) can soften the threshold, as well as the so-called Umklapp processes

(in which a carrier ends up in the next Brillouin Zone and G vectors of the reciprocal lattice is needed to ‘map

it back’ into the ﬁrst BZ) can ‘soften’ the requirements of momentum conservation.

Ionization coeﬃcient. The parameter which is of interest in the breakdown of p-n junctions is the ‘ionization

coeﬃcient’ α (see page 92). This is deﬁned as the number of pairs generated per unit length, so that it also

represents the rate at which the current density increases (per unit length): Considering for now only electrons:

dJ

n

dx

= α

n

J

n

. (54)

Since each electron at energy E = E(k) generates electron-hole pairs at a rate 1/τ

ii

(E), if f(k) is the

ECE609 Spring 2008 121

electron distribution function, then:

α

n

=

1

n¸v

d

)

2

(2π)

3

_

dk

f(k)

τ

ii

[E(k)]

, (55)

where n is the electron density n = 2(2π)

−3

_

dkf(k) and ¸v

d

) = (2/n)(2π)

−3

_

dkf(k)v

F

(k) is

the drift velocity (i.e., the group velocity along the direction of the ﬁeld averaged over the electron distribution

function). It can be seen (perhaps not too trivially) that the functional dependence of τ

ii

as given by Eq. (53)

does not aﬀect α

n

too much. On the contrary, the shape of the distribution function f(k) as a function of

the ﬁeld dramatically aﬀects α

n

. Therefore, the whole game consists in estimating how f changes with F.

Shockley had the basic idea that only those electrons which manage to be accelerated to E

th

without losing

energy to phonons will contribute to the ionization process. The probability that an electron scatters per unit

time is

k

t

P(k

t

, k). If P

np

(t) is the probability that the electrons has not scattered up to time t, the

probability that it will not have scattered up to t +dt will be:

P

np

(t +dt) = P

np

(t)

_

_

1 − dt

k

t

P(k

t

, k)

_

_

. (56)

Solving this equation for a time interval [t

1

, t

2

], we get

P

np

= exp

_

_

_

−

_

t

2

t

1

k

t

P(k

t

, k) dt

_

_

_

. (57)

(Note that k and k

t

are functions of time due to their acceleration in the ﬁeld, so the integration is not

trivial). Now, the probability that an electron will not scatter with phonons while being accelerated from

energy E = 0 to E = E

th

can be obtained from Eq. (57) by noticing that 1/τ

ph

(k) =

k

t

P(k

t

, k), by

ECE609 Spring 2008 122

using the chain-rule (let’s consider only the 1D case for simplicity):

dE

dt

=

dE

dk

dk

dt

=

dE

dk

eF

¯ h

→ dt = dE

¯ h

eF

_

dE

dk

_

−1

.

Then,

P

np

= exp

_

−

¯ h

eF

_

E

th

0

dE

τ

ph

(E)

_

dE

dk

_

−1

_

. (58)

Clearly, one can argue about the assumption that after every collision the electrons must start from zero

energy. Nevertheless, this ‘lucky electron’ model captures the basic feature of the ionization coeﬃcient at

small ﬁelds F, α ∝ exp(−constant/F). However, despite its empirical success in this case, Shockley’s

lucky-electron model should not be taken too seriously (indeed it has caused more harm – in the form of

confusion and bad physics in the literature – than good). This may be seen by noticing that at larger electric

ﬁeld experimentally one ﬁnds instead that an expression of the form α ∝ exp(−constant/F

2

) matches the

data more accurately. This can be explained by assuming that at large enough ﬁelds the electron ionize as

soon as they reach the threshold energy E

th

, that they lose all of their energy, so that the energy-loss term is

_

dkE/τ

ii

f(k). It may be shown that adding this term to the third-moment equations will yield the desired

behavior.

Avalanche. Let’s generalize Eq. (54) to the case of a p-n junction under strong reverse bias. Under these bias

conditions, the reverse ‘leakage current’ density J

s

is very small and it is mainly due to those few electrons

present in the p-type quasi-neutral region which ﬂow into the n-type region, and holes undergoing a similar

(but opposite) process. If the electric ﬁeld in the depletion region is suﬃciently large, impact ionization will

occur. Considering one of those few electrons entering the depletion region from the left, it will have a

nonzero probability of creating an electron-hole pair. The generated hole will travel back towards the left and

it may impact-ionize, thus creating another electron-hole pair. The generated electron, in turn, will travel

back towards the right and the cycle will repeat itself. There will be a critical ﬁeld at which the probability

that impact-ionization occurs will be unity. At this point, the process will run-away, more and more carriers

being generated and the current will grow without limits. This is the avalanche breakdow.

ECE609 Spring 2008 123

In order to quantify the onset of this condition, let’s note that the initial electron current injected from the

left will grow as:

dJ

n

dx

= α

p

J

p

+ α

n

J

n

, (59)

or

dJ

n

dx

− (α

n

− α

p

) J

n

= α

p

J , (60)

where J = J

n

+ J

p

is the total electron and hole current, constant at steady-state. To determine the

breakdown condition, let’s denote with J

n

(−l

p

) the electron current density incident from the left-edge of

the depletion region (at x = −l

p

) and let’s assume that the electron current exiting the high-ﬁeld depletion

region (at x = l

n

) is a multiple M

n

of J

n

(−l

p

). Since most of the current at x = l

n

will be carried

by electrons, we can assume J

n

(l

n

) = M

n

J

n

(−l

p

) ≈ J. With this boundary condition the solution of

Eq. (60) can be written as:

J

n

(x) = J

_

1

M

n

+

_

x

−l

p

dx

t

α

p

exp

_

−

_

x

t

−l

p

dx

tt

(α

n

−α

p

)

_ _

exp

_

_

x

−l

p

dx

t

(α

n

−α

p

)

_

.

(61)

(Note: This comes from the fact that the general solution of the ﬁrst-order linear diﬀerential equation

dy(x)

dx

+ a(x)y(x) = b(x)

is

y(x) = C e

−A(x)

+ e

−A(x)

_

dx b(x) e

A(x)

,

where C is an integration constant determined by the boundary condition and A(x) =

_

x

dx

t

a(x

t

)).

Evaluating J

n

(x) at x = −l

p

yields J

n

(−l

p

) = J/M

n

, which is our boundary condition. We must

ECE609 Spring 2008 124

also require J

n

(l

n

) = J. With some algebra this implies:

1 −

1

M

n

=

_

l

n

−l

p

dx α

n

exp

_

−

_

x

−l

p

dx

t

(α

n

−α

p

)

_

. (62)

The avalanche breakdown voltage is deﬁned as the voltage at which M

n

→ ∞. Thus, at breakdown the

ionization integral approaches unity:

_

l

n

−l

p

dx α

n

exp

_

−

_

x

−l

p

dx

t

(α

n

−α

p

)

_

= 1 . (63)

For a hole-initiated avalanche we get a symmetrical result:

_

l

n

−l

p

dx α

p

exp

_

−

_

l

n

x

dx

t

(α

p

−α

n

)

_

= 1 . (64)

Equations (63) and (64) are equivalent: The condition determining the onset of breakdown depends only on

what happens inside the depletion region, not on which type of carrier initiates the ionization process. Note

that for semiconductors for which α

n

≈ α

p

(as in GaP, for example), the breakdown condition becomes

simply

_

l

n

−l

p

dx α = 1 , (65)

with obvious meaning: If the probability of ionizing over the depletion region reaches unity, avalanche will

occur.

Breakdown voltage. The breakdown voltage can be calculated from known doping proﬁle, ionization rates,

etc. from the equations above. In the case of an abrupt junction we have

V

BD

=

F

max

(l

n

+l

p

)

2

, (66)

ECE609 Spring 2008 125

where the maximum ﬁeld in the depletion region is given by Eq. (7). For ‘linearly graded’ junctions, the

formula above must be corrected by a factor 2/3.

ECE609 Spring 2008 126

– Zener breakdown.

Another cause of breakdown is related to the quantum mechanical process of tunneling. At a very large

electric ﬁeld in a reverse-biased p-n junction, electrons in the valence band may tunnel across the band gap of

the semiconductor, thus creating an electron-hole pair. The process may lead to breakdown either directly (so

many pairs will be crated that the leakage current will grow) or indirectly: The electrons and holes generated

by the tunneling process will impact-ionize and an avalanche process will begin. This breakdown mechanism

is called ‘Zener breakdown’. It aﬀects mostly heavily-doped junctions in which the built-in voltage and the

applied (reverse) bias fall over a narrow depletion region, thus giving rise to large electric ﬁelds.

A relatively simple estimate of the strength of the process may be obtained by assuming that the electrons

have to tunnel through a triangular barrier of height E

G

and length E

G

/(eF) (see the ﬁgure in the previous

page). Using the WKB approximation (see Homework 1), the tunneling probability is proportional to:

P

Zener

(F) ∝ exp

_

_

−

4(2m

∗

)

1/2

E

3/2

G

3e¯ hF

_

_

, (67)

where m

∗

is the electron eﬀective mass in the gap (usually approximated by the smaller between the electron

and hole eﬀective masses). More rigorous calculation show that the current is given by:

J

Zener

≈

(2m

∗

)

1/2

e

3

FV

a

4π

2

¯ h

2

E

1/2

G

P

Zener

(F) . (68)

This expression is independent of temperature and it is valid only for semiconductors with a direct gap (such

as most of the III-V compound semiconductors). On the contrary, for semiconductors with indirect gap (such

as Si and Ge), the calculations must take into account the fact that crystal momentum must be supplied

(mainly by phonons) in order to allow a transition from the top of the valence band at the symmetry point Γ

to the bottom of the conduction band at other locations in the BZ (at the symmetry points L in Ge, near

the symmetry points X for Si). The role played by phonons in the process renders Zener breakdown quite

strongly temperature-dependent.

ECE609 Spring 2008 127

Other ‘diodes’: Heterojunctions,

Metal-Semiconductor junctions (Shottky contacts), MOS capacitors

p-n junctions are ubiquitous in semiconductor devices: We had to analyze their characteristics in some detail

because this understanding is required to analyze, in turn, the characteristics of many types of devices (bipolar

junction transistors – BJTs – in particular). However, other types of ‘junctions’ play a major role in several types of

transistors: Heterojunctions (that is, the junction between two diﬀerent semiconductors) make up heterojunction

bipolar transistors (HBTs), high electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs, also known as ‘modulation-doped ﬁeld-eﬀect

transistors’, MODFETs), and injection lasers; Shottky contacts (that is, the ‘junction’ between a semiconductor

and a metal) enter heavily in the operation of metal-semiconductor FETs (MESFETs), among other devices;

MOS - metal-oxide-semiconductor- capacitors are at the heart of what is arguably the most important type of

transistor in VLSI technology, the ‘metal-oxide-semiconductor ﬁeld-eﬀect transistor’ (MOSFET).

We shall now discuss in turn each of these ’junctions’ (or ‘diodes’, as they broadly fall into the category of

two-terminal devices).

• Heterojunctions.

– Thermionic emission.

As shown in the left frame of the ﬁgure in the next page, let’s consider two diﬀerent semiconductors brought

into contact. In the ﬁgure we use the example of GaAs and the alloy Al

x

Ga

1−x

As (where x, known as the

‘mole fraction’, is the molar fraction of Al ions to Ga ions). GaAs has a smaller band gap (≈ 1.51 eV)

than Al

x

Ga

1−x

As (≈ 1.72 eV for x = 0.3, for example). Most of the discontinuity of the gap falls in the

conduction band. Therefore, as soon as the two materials are brought together, the conduction bands will

line-up as shown in the left frame of the ﬁgure.

Let’s now assume that the bands will remain ﬁxed in this situation (we’ll worry later on about the possibility of

a new equilibrium position) and let’s attempt to compute the current caused by electrons ﬂowing from GaAs

to Al

x

Ga

1−x

As.

ECE609 Spring 2008 128

If we take the z axis as the axis perpendicular to the plane of the interface, we can compute the current by

multiplying the distribution function f(k) in GaAs (i.e., in the left semiconductor) by the z-component of the

velocity and by summing over all states with right-directed velocity, v

z

(k) > 0 and with suﬃcient energy and

‘correct’ angle of travel to overcome the barrier. This means, classically:

1

2

m

∗

v

2

z

=

1

2

m

∗

_

¯ hk

z

m

∗

_

2

≥ ∆E

c

. (69)

Thus the minimum value of the z-component of k an electron in GaAs must have to make it over the barrier

of height ∆E

c

is k

z0

= (2m

∗

∆E

c

)

1/2

/¯ h. Thus, this ‘left-to-right’ current can be written as:

j

LR

=

2e

(2π)

3

_

k

x

k

y

dk

x

dk

y

_

k

z

>k

z0

dk

z

v

z

(k) f(k) . (70)

Taking for f the non-degenerate Boltzmann limit and switching integration variables from wavevector to

ECE609 Spring 2008 129

velocity we have:

j

LR

=

_

m

∗

¯ h

_

3

e

4π

3

e

E

F,L

/(k

B

T)

_

∞

−∞

dv

x

dv

y

_

∞

v

z0

dv

z

v

z

exp

_

−

m

∗

2k

B

T

(v

2

x

+v

2

y

+v

2

z

)

_

,

(71)

where E

F,L

is the Fermi level in GaAs measured from the conduction-band minimum of GaAs itself.

We can use cylindrical coordinates, so that dv

x

dv

y

= vdvdφ (with v = (v

2

x

+ v

2

y

)

1/2

) and, deﬁning

E

j

= m

∗

v

2

/2, we have dE

j

= m

∗

vdv, so:

_

∞

−∞

dv

x

dv

y

exp

_

−

m

∗

2k

B

T

(v

2

x

+v

2

y

)

_

=

_

2π

0

dφ

_

∞

0

dv v e

−m

∗

v

2

/(k

B

T)

=

=

2π

m

∗

_

∞

0

dE

j

e

−E

j

/(k

B

T)

= =

2π

m

∗

k

B

T , (72)

so that:

j

LR

=

e

2π

2

m

∗2

¯ h

3

k

B

T e

E

F,L

/(k

B

T)

_

∞

v

z0

dv

z

v

z

e

−m

∗

v

2

z

/(2k

B

T)

= A

∗

T

2

e

(E

F,L

−]∆E

c

])/(k

B

T)

.

(73)

This is called ‘thermionic emission current’, and A

∗

= em

∗

k

2

B

/(2π

2

¯ h

3

) is the so-called Richardson constant.

Following similar arguments, the current from Al

x

Ga

1−x

As to GaAs will be

j

RL

= A

∗

T

2

e

E

F,R

/(k

B

T)

, (74)

where E

F,RL

is now the Fermi level in Al

x

Ga

1−x

As measured from the conduction-band minimum of

Al

x

Ga

1−x

As.

Let’s now assume that the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As is doped with N

D

donors per cm

3

and that the GaAs is undoped

or weakly n-type doped. Similarly to what we saw for p-n junction, at equilibrium the Fermi levels must

ECE609 Spring 2008 130

‘line up’. Physically, this is caused by the electrons in the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As ﬂowing into the GaAs-side of the

‘heterojunction’ until a built-in potential will block the ﬂow. We can estimate the time-dependence of this

ﬂow from the continuity equation:

e

∂n

∂t

=

∂j

∂z

, (75)

The current will be mainly caused by electrons ﬂowing from right to left via thermionic emission. We can

assume that only electrons within a distance L

n

from the interface will participate in the conduction, since

electrons in the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As farther away will have essentially zero v

z

(since thay are at equilibrium, suﬀering

too many collisions). Then, from Eqns. (74) and (75) we have:

e

∂n

∂t

≈ −A

∗

T

2

e

E

F,R

/(k

B

T)

/L

n

. (76)

Assuming a time-dependent Fermi level E

F,R

(t) such that:

n(t) =

_

∞

0

dE ρ

R

(E) e

(E

F,R

(t)−E)/(k

B

T)

, (77)

(where ρ

R

(E) is the density of states at energy E in Al

x

Ga

1−x

As), we can write:

e

E

F,R

(t)/(k

B

T)

= n(t)4

_

π¯ h

2

2m

∗

k

B

T

_

3/2

= n(t)C

R

. (78)

From Eqns. (76) and (78) we get:

∂n

∂t

= −

A

∗

T

2

eL

n

n(t)C

R

, (79)

whose solution is:

n(t) = n

c

exp

_

−

_

A

∗

T

2

C

R

eL

n

t

__

, (80)

ECE609 Spring 2008 131

where n

c

is the concentration of electrons in the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As at t = 0. The time constant for the decay

of the electron concentration in the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As is thus τ ≈ eL

n

/(A

∗

T

2

C

R

) which is of the order of

picoseconds at room temperature. Thus, the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As will lose its electrons very quickly, leaving behind

positively ionized donors. The buld-up of the positive charge in the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As and of the (electron) negative

charge in the GaAs will eventually buid a barrier preventing further ﬂow of electrons from the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As

to the GaAs. When, ﬁnally, equilibrium will be reached, the band diagram will look like what is shown in the

right frame of the ﬁgure at page 129.

– The depletion approximation (again).

Let’s quantify this band diagram by solving Poisson equation. Denoting by F the z-component of the electric

ﬁeld, we have

∂F

∂z

=

e

s

(p −n +N

+

D

−N

−

A

) , (81)

where

s

is the dielectric constant of the semiconductor (a function which has a discontinuity at the

GaAs/Al

x

Ga

1−x

As interface). Let’s take z = 0 at the interface. Let’s also embrace once again the

‘depletion approximation’, by assuming that in the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As, at a distance W away from the interface the

semiconductor is charge-neutral, with zero electric ﬁeld, since the free carriers (or the positive charges of the

dopants) will have screened the electric ﬁeld at this distance. Therefore, this is a valid approximation as long

as W >> 2π/β

s

, where β

s

is the screening parameter (in our case β

2

s

= eN

+

D

/(

s

k

B

T)). Then, the

‘built-in’ potential will be:

V

bi

= −

_

W

0

dz F = − zF]

W

0

+

_

W

0

dz z

∂F

∂z

. (82)

From this equation, since we have assumed F(z) = 0 for z ≥ W, we have:

V

bi

≈

_

W

0

dz z

∂F

∂z

. (83)

ECE609 Spring 2008 132

Neglecting the charges of the free carriers in the depletion layer, from Eq. (81):

V

bi

≈ −

_

W

0

dz z

eN

+

D

s

=

eW

2

N

+

D

2

s

. (84)

This equation relates V

bi

to W, but it gives us neither value. These values can be obtained by solving Poisson

equation on both sides of the interface and matching the solutions. Only when the GaAs-side of the junction is

very heavily doped, so that the bands distort signiﬁcantly only in the Al

x

Ga

1−x

As-side of the heterojunction,

then we have approximately:

]eV

bi

] ≈ ∆E

c

+ E

c,L

−E

c,R

(∞) , (85)

(where E

c,L

is the energy of the bottom of the CB of GaAs at the far left, and E

c,R

(∞) the energy of the

botom of the CB of Al

x

Ga

1−x

As at the far right) from which W can be obtained via Eq. (84).

– Beyond the depletion approximaton.

A better solution of our problem can be obtained by going beyond the depletion approximation and by solving

Poisson equation on both sides of the interface. First, let’s recall that at the interface between two dielectrics

the normal component of the ﬁeld D =

s

F and the ‘in-plane’ components of the ﬁeld F must be continuous.

Since F = −∇φ, these conditions imply:

L

∂φ

∂z

¸

¸

¸

¸

z=0

−

=

R

∂φ

∂z

¸

¸

¸

¸

z=0

+

(86)

and

φ(z = 0

−

) = φ(z = 0

+

) . (87)

Now let’ consider Eq. (81). As noted when discussing p-n junctions, this equation is nonlinear since the carrier

density n depends on the electrostatic potential itself:

n(z) = n

c

(−∞) exp

_

eφ(z)

k

B

T

_

, (88)

ECE609 Spring 2008 133

where n

c

(−∞) is the equilibrium electron concentration in GaAs far away to the left. Let’s denote with ψ(z)

the quantity −eφ(z)/(k

B

T). Then, on the left side of the interface, in the absence of holes and acceptors,

Poisson equation becomes:

∂

2

ψ

∂z

2

= −

e

2

GaAs

k

B

T

[N

+

D

−n

c

(−∞)e

ψ

] . (89)

If the doping in GaAs is uniform, n

c

(−∞) = N

+

D

and

∂

2

ψ

∂z

2

=

e

2

n

c

(−∞)

GaAs

k

B

T

(e

ψ

−1) . (90)

This equation cannot be solved in closed form. However, we can get some information about the electron

concentration on the left-side of the heterojunction as a function of the value of the potential, φ

i

, and of the

electric ﬁeld, F

i

, at the interface. In order to do this, let’s multiply Eq. (90) by −∂ψ/∂z and integrate. The

left-hand-side becomes:

−

_

∂

2

ψ

∂z

2

∂ψ

∂z

dz = −

1

2

_

∂

∂z

_

∂ψ

∂z

_

2

dz = −

1

2

_

∂ψ

∂z

_

2

, (91)

while for the right-hand-side we get:

e

2

n

c

(−∞)

GaAs

k

B

T

_

(e

ψ

−1)

∂ψ

∂z

dz =

e

2

n

c

(−∞)

GaAs

k

B

T

_

(e

ψ

−1) dψ =

e

2

n

c

(−∞)

GaAs

k

B

T

(e

ψ

−ψ+C) , (92)

where C is an integration constant. Therefore, from Eqns. (91) and (92), ﬁxing C = −1 by requiring

∂ψ/∂z = 0 for z = −∞, we have the relation:

F

2

= −

2n

c

(−∞)k

B

T

GaAs

(e

ψ

−ψ −1) . (93)

ECE609 Spring 2008 134

Equation (90) can be integrated from z = −∞ to the interface z = 0 obtaining:

GaAs

F

i

= Q

tot

, (94)

where Q

tot

is the total excess charge (due to the electrons which have spilled over from Al

x

Ga

1−x

As-side of

the heterojunction) at the left of the interface. Note that electrons accumulate exponentially – the Boltzmann

law - with increasing interface potential, since from Eqns. (93) and (94) Q

tot

∝ e

ψ

i

/2

. Thus, one speaks

of an ‘accumulation layer’ at the GaAs side of the interface. Had we considered, instead, p-doped GaAs,

the derivation would have been very similar. However, in the presence of holes, for small values of ψ

i

the

electrons would have been recombining with the holes – thus forming a depletion layer – before starting

to form an ‘inversion layer’ (so called because the p-type GaAs would become n-type, so ’inverted’) in

which the electron density would grow, as before, as ∝ e

ψ

i

/2

. As the interface potential reaches the value

ψ

i

= 2k

B

T ln(N

A

/n

i

), then one talks of ‘strong inversion’, since the electron density at the interface

exceeds the hole density in the bulk of the p-type GaAs.

Equations (93) and (94), together with the continuity conditions Eqns. (86) and (87), can be used to obtain

a complete solution of Poisson equation.

• Shottky contacts.

– Metal-semiconductor junction.

When we bring a metal and a semiconductor together, as shown in the ﬁgure in the next page, we have a

situation not too dissimilar from what we have seen regarding heterojunctions: If the semicondutor (assumed

to be n-type) Fermi level is larger than Fermi level in the metal (as shown in the ﬁgure), electrons will ﬂow

from the semiconductor untill a new equilibrium will be reached. This will result in the creation of a depletion

region in the semiconductor side of the ‘contact’. Similarly to what we have sen in the case of heterojunctions,

there will be an energy ‘barrier’ of height eφ

B

between the bottom of the CB of the semiconductor and the

metal Fermi level. Denoting by eφ

M

the metal workfunction (that is, the energy required to excite an electron

at the metal Fermi level to the level of the vacuum) and by eχ the electron aﬃnity of the semiconductor, the

ECE609 Spring 2008 135

Shottky barrier height will be (looking at the ﬁgure):

eφ

Bn

= e (φ

M

−χ) , (95)

where the subscript n reminds us that we have considered an n-type semiconductor. For a p-type

semiconductor, instead, we would have obtained

eφ

Bp

= E

G

− e (φ

M

−χ) . (96)

ECE609 Spring 2008 136

– Non-ideal junctions.

This is what we expect in an ideal case. In practice, it often happens that the Fermi level of the semiconductor

is ‘pinned’ at some particular energy in the gap due to the presence of electron traps at the interface (interface

states). Years ago J. Bardeen had suggested that electronic states associated to unterminated bonds present

at the semiconductor interface may be an intrinsic cause of this ‘pinning’. Now it seems that things are more

complicated: For example, bare surfaces may ‘reconstruct’ and, when exposed to metals, may ‘deconstruct’ in

complicated ways, leading to amorphization, interdiﬀusion and clustering in the interfacial region. It is fair to

say that we do not know exactly what pins the Fermi level, so that in many cases the Shottky barrier height

should be regarded as an experimentally measured quantity.

– Image force eﬀects.

Another cause of deviation from the ideal picture we used to reach Eq. (95) is caused by ‘image force eﬀects’.

This is a basic idea of elementary electrostatics. Let’s consider an interface between two dielectrics (with

permittivities

2

– the metal, assumed to be in the semi-inﬁnite space z < 0, and

1

– the semiconductor).

Let’s consider the electron in the semiconductor, which ﬁlls the half-space z ≥ 0, at a distance z = d from

the interface. By the method of images we can write the potential along the line (the z-axis) normal to the

interface and passing through the particle location as:

V (z) =

e

2

4π

1

_

1

]d −z]

−

2

−

1

2

+

1

1

]d +z]

_

. (97)

The ﬁrst term is the ‘usual’ potential due to the electron iteself. The second term is the image potential,

V

im

(z), which we shall consider now. For the electron sitting at z = d the force due to its own image

(located at z = −d) will be:

F

im

(d) = −

dV

im

(z)

dz

¸

¸

¸

¸

z=d

= −

e

2

16π

1

d

2

2

−

1

2

+

1

. (98)

Now, the work performed against the image required to bring the electron from inﬁnity to the position z > 0

ECE609 Spring 2008 137

will be:

∆φ

im

(z) =

_

∞

z

ds F

im

(s) = −

e

2

16π

1

z

2

−

1

2

+

1

. (99)

This can be viewed as a force which lowers (for

2

>

1

) or raises (in the opposite case) the barrier height.

Coming to our explicit case, assuming for the metal

2

→ ∞, and setting

1

=

s

, and adding the eﬀect of

a uniform ﬁeld F

z

, we have a total potential energy

Φ

im

(z) = −

e

2

16π

1

z

− eF

z

z . (100)

This potential exhibits a maximum at some distance from the interface and it yields a barrier whose height is

reduced by the amount:

∆φ

B

=

_

eF

z

4π

s

_

1/2

. (101)

An additional barrier-reducing eﬀect is purely quantum-mechanical and it’s caused by the penetration of

electronic wavefunctions of the metal into the semiconductor band gap. We shall not discuss it further.

ECE609 Spring 2008 138

– Thermionic current.

We can now compute the thermionic current. The current ﬂowing from the left (the metal) to the right (the

semiconductor) can be computed following exactly the arguments used to derive Eq. (73). Thus:

j

LR

= A

∗

T

2

e

−eφ

B

/(k

B

T)

. (102)

At equilibrium, the same current will ﬂow from the semiconductor to the metal, so the net current will be

zero. If we now apply an external bias, we shall for now assume that the (quasi) Fermi levels remain constant

in the metal, E

F,L

and in the semiconductor, E

F,R

, and we assume that the diﬀerence between the Fermi

levels is just the applied bias, eV

a

= E

F,R

− E

F,L

, taken positive when we apply positive bias to the

semiconductor. (The assumption that the applied voltage drops in the depletion region of the semiconductor

while the quasi-Fermi levels remain constant will be discussed below.) For V

a

> 0 we can consider J

LR

given, unchanged, by Eq. (102), since the barrier heights will remain unchanged by the application of the

external bias (approximately: the image force lowering will by slightly modiﬁed by the applied bias via the ﬁeld

F

z

in Eq. (101), but we shall ignore this small eﬀect). On the contrary, the current ﬂowing from the right will

be enhanced (for V

a

> 0) and will be:

j

RL

= A

∗

T

2

e

−eφ

B

/(k

B

T)

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

, (103)

ECE609 Spring 2008 139

so that the total current, j = j

RL

−j

LR

will be:

j = A

∗

T

2

e

−eφ

B

/(k

B

T)

_

e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1

_

. (104)

Note the similarity with the Shockley equation, Eq. (26), for the current in p-n-junctions.

The thickness of the depletion region can be obtained as we did before for p-n-junctions and we obtain

W =

_

2

s

(eV

bi

−V

a

)

eN

D

_

1/2

, (105)

where the built-in potential V

bi

is (see the ﬁgure) eφ

B

−(E

c

−E

F

).

– Diﬀusion current.

The limitation of the derivation leading to Eq. (104) lies in the assumption that the quasi-Fermi level remains

constant in the semiconductor. Consider electrons ﬂowing from the right, ‘jumping’ over the barrier towards

the metal. They will do so with a velocity v

z

roughly given by 2eφ

B

/m

∗

, of the order of at least 10

7

cm/s (and up to 10

8

cm/s) for most barrier-heights and semiconductors. This velocity is quite large because

only electrons streaming from right to left contribute to its average, since, having entered the metal, it’s very

unlikely that they will be reﬂected back. In other words, only the left-going half of the electron distribution

contributes to this average velocity. Therefore, the time constant characterizing the out-ﬂow of these carriers

into the metal will be of the order of λ/v

z

, where λ is the electron mean-free-path. This ﬂow of electrons

out of the depletion region towards the metal must be balanced by electrons coming into the depletion region

from the right at z = W. These electrons will not be ‘streaming’ in one direction (to the left), but be

diﬀused in all directions by scattering with impurities, phonons, etc. Thus, their characteristic velocity (now

averaged over left- and right-going carriers) will be of the order of the ‘drift’ velocity v

d

, typically of the order

of 10

5

cm/s, or even smaller, for the typical concentration gradients of interest. Therefore, the associated

time constant, λ/v

d

, will be at the very least two orders of magnitude smaller. This is true unless the width

W of the depletion region is smaller than λ. In this case also the supply of electrons from the right will occur

‘ballistically’ at the fast time scale λ/v

z

, since scattering will be negligible also for this ‘supply’ of electrons

from the right. This is the situation in which the supply of electrons from the right is able to keep up with

ECE609 Spring 2008 140

the escape of electrons to the left and our assumption of constant quasi-Fermi levels is valid. If, however,

the supply from the right cannot match the escape-rate to the left (which happens, as we have seen, when

W >> λ), then our picture is clearly inconsistent (since it leads to a situation away from steady-state, in

contrast to our assumption). In this case a diﬀusion-dominated model better describes the current ﬂow in

Shottky diodes.

From current continuity

j = enµ

n

F

z

+ eD

n

∂n

∂z

. (106)

Using Einstein’s relation to express µ

n

in terms of D

n

, we can re-write this equation as:

j = eD

n

_

−

e

k

B

T

n

∂φ

∂z

+

∂n

∂z

_

. (107)

Multiplying by exp[−eφ(z)/(k

B

T)] this becomes:

j e

−eφ(z)/(k

B

T)

= eD

n

∂ne

−eφ(z)/(k

B

T)

∂z

. (108)

In steady-state the current does not depend on z, so

j

_

W

0

e

−eφ(z)/(k

B

T)

dz = eD

n

_

n(W) e

−eφ(W)/(k

B

T)

− n(0) e

−eφ(0)/(k

B

T)

_

. (109)

Using the solution φ(z) of Poisson equation in the depletion approximation we could in principle compute the

function

F(N

D

) = e

−eφ(0)/(k

B

T)

_

W

0

e

−eφ(z)/(k

B

T)

dz , (110)

(which depends only on the doping density N

D

) so that from Eq. (109), noticing that under an applied external

bias and assuming the the entire external potential drops in the depletion region, V

a

= φ(W) − φ(0), we

have

jF(N

D

) = eD

n

_

n(W) e

−e(V

bi

−V

a

)/(k

B

T)

− n(0)

_

. (111)

ECE609 Spring 2008 141

Now, since in the depletion approximation n(W) is equal to its equilibrium value and, at equilibrium,

n

eq

(W) exp[−eV

bi

/(k

B

T)] = n

eq

(0), we have:

jF(N

D

) = eD

n

_

n

eq

(0) e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

− n(0)

_

. (112)

As last step, we must ﬁnd the non-equilibrium concentration n(0). To do that, let’s observe that the current

ﬂowing to the left at the junction (z = 0) is the thermionic emission current with concentration n(0) and

zero barrier height (since we are considering the current at the top of the barrier). Therefore,

j

0

th

= A

∗

T

2

_

n(0)

N

c

−

n

eq

(0)

N

c

_

, (113)

having used Eqns. (73), (74), and the known expression n

eq

≈ N

c

exp[E

F

− E

c

)/(k

B

T)]. The second

term in the equation above represents the current coming back, which is essentially an equilibrium current, since

no voltage drops in the left side of the junction. The term A

∗

T

2

/(eN

c

) is called ‘interface recombination

velocity’ and it is denoted by v

R

. Thus, using now the fact that j

0

th

is equal to j (since this is the current at

the interface and j does not depend on z), combining Eq. (112) and (113) we ﬁnally get:

j =

eD

n

n

eq

(0)[e

eV

a

/(k

B

T)

−1]

F(N

D

) +D/v

R

. (114)

Note, once again, that is of the form j ∝ exp[eV

a

/(k

B

T)] − 1, the typical form of the current in many

junctions.

ECE609 Spring 2008 142

– Tunneling current.

The last component of the current we must consider is of quantum-mechanical origin. It is the tunneling

current illustrated in the ﬁgure above.

In the example illustrated in the ﬁgure, electrons in the metal can tunnel across the Shottky barrier and enter

the semiconductor. Similarly, electrons can tunnel from the semiconductor into the metal.

Such a current can be calculated using the WKB approximation we have seen in Homework 1. Let the z-axis

be normal to the plane of the interface, let z = 0 be the location of the interface and let v

z

(k) be the

z-component of the velocity of the electrons hitting the interface and attempting the tunneling process. The

probability P

t

that an electron will tunnel across the barrier can be estimated using the WKB approximation:

P

t

≈ exp

_

−2

_

z

t

0

dz κ

z

(z)

_

, (115)

ECE609 Spring 2008 143

where z

t

is the tunneling distance (that is, the position at wich the electrons will emerge from the barrier

in the semiconductor, κ(z) = ¦2m ∗ ∗[eφ(z) − E

z

]]

1/2

/¯ h is the imaginary component of the electron

wavevector in the barrier, φ(z) the electrostatic potential in the depletion region, and E

z

= ¯ h

2

k

2

z

/(2m

∗

M

)

the component of the electron kinetic energy in the metal due to the z-component of the electrons wavector

in the metal with eﬀective mass m

∗

M

. (Note that this separation of kinetic energy is only valid for parabolic

bands and for directions along the principal axes of ellipsoidal band-structures.)

Tunneling processes, in principle, conserve the component of the momentum parallel to the interface. Indeed,

the translation symmetry on the plane of the interface ensures the conservation of this quantity. In practice, at

suﬃciently high temperatures, phonons can provide the ‘parallel momentum’ required to relax this conservation

law. Also, interface roughness and deviations fron ideality of the interface, often have the same eﬀect. Since

it is a realistic eﬀect, and since it simpliﬁes considerably the calculations, we shall assume that parallel

momentum is not conserved and we can replace E

z

with the total electron kinetic energy E in the expression

for κ(z) above.

The tunneling current from the metal to the semiconductor will then be:

j

MS

= 2e

_

k

z

>0

dk

(2π)

3

v

z

(k) f

M

(k) [1 −f

S

(Ek)] exp

_

−2

_

z

t

0

dz κ

z

(z)

_

, (116)

where f

M

(k) is the Fermi function in the metal and the factor [1 − f

S

(Ek)] ensures that we tunnel only

into unoccupied states in the semiconductor . Performing the integral in polar coordinates, recalling that

v

z

(k) = ¯ hk

z

/m

∗

M

= ¯ hk cos θ/m

∗

M

, we have:

j

MS

=

e¯ h

2π

2

m

∗

M

_

∞

0

dk k

3

f

M

(k) [1−f

S

(k)] exp

_

−2

_

z

t

0

dz κ

z

(z)

_ _

π/2

0

dθ sin θ cos θ ,

(117)

the upper integration limit for θ being π/2 since we restrict the intergration only over right-directed electrons

ECE609 Spring 2008 144

(k

z

> 0 in Eq. (116)). Thus, changing integration variable k to E, as usual:

j

MS

=

em

∗

M

2π

2

¯ h

3

_

∞

0

dE E f

M

(E) [1 −f

S

(E)] exp

_

−2

_

z

t

0

dz κ(z)

_

. (118)

Similarly, the current due to electrons tunneling from the semiconductor to the metal will be:

j

SM

=

em

∗

S

2π

2

¯ h

3

_

∞

0

dE E f

S

(E) [1 −f

M

(E)] exp

_

−2

_

z

t

0

dz κ(z)

_

. (119)

The total current will be, obviously, j

T

= j

SM

−j

MS

.

Let’s consider two cases in which the WKB integral,

_

z

t

0

dzκ(z) can be handled analytically. In the ﬁrst

case, quite a realistic one, we approximate the potential φ(z) with its expression valid in the depletion

approximation,

φ(z) = φ

t

B

_

1 −

z

W

_

2

, (120)

where φ

t

B

, as illustrated in the ﬁgure, is the total voltage drop in the semiconductor, φ

t

B

= V

bi

− V

a

=

φ

B

− V

a

+ E

F,R

− E

c

and W = [2

s

(V

bi

− V

a

)/(eN

D

)]

1/2

is the width of the depletion region. In

this case, with some algebra, we ﬁnd:

_

z

t

0

dz κ(z) =

(2m

∗

S

)

1/2

¯ h

_

z

t

0

dz [eφ(z) −E]

1/2

=

=

(2m

∗

S

)

1/2

¯ h

_

W[1−(E/eφ

t

B

)

1/2

]

0

dz

_

eφ

t

B

W

2

(W −z)

2

−E

_

1/2

, (121)

having used the fact that z

t

= W[1 −(E/eφ

t

B

)

1/2

].

ECE609 Spring 2008 145

Changing integration variable y = (eφ

t

B

/W

2

)(W −z)

2

−E, we get:

_

z

t

0

dz κ(z) =

_

m

∗

S

2eφ

t

B

_

1/2

W

¯ h

_

eφ

t

B

−E

0

dy

_

y

y +E

_

1/2

=

=

_

m

∗

S

2eφ

t

B

_

1/2

W

¯ h

2eφ

t

B

_

_

_

1 −

E

eφ

t

B

_

1/2

−

1

2

_

_

. (122)

Thus, from Eqns. (118) and (122), we get:

j

MS

=

em

∗

M

2π

2

¯ h

3

_

∞

0

dE E f

M

(E) [1−f

S

(E)] exp

_

−

2(2m

∗

S

eφ

t

B

)

1/2

¯ h

W

_

_

1 −E/(eφ

t

B

)

_

1/2

−1/2

_

(123)

At this point the integration must be performed numerically.

Another example consists in approximating the Shottky barrier as a triangular barrier

φ(z) = φ

t

B

− F

z

z , (124)

where F

z

may be chosen as the interfacial ﬁeld, 2φ

t

B

/W, or some suitable average of the ﬁeld over the

depletion region. In this case we get:

j

MS

=

em

∗

M

2π

2

¯ h

3

_

∞

0

dE E f

M

(E) [1 −f

S

(E)] exp

_

−

4(2m

∗

S

)

1/2

3e¯ hF

z

(eφ

t

B

−E)

3/2

_

. (125)

Given the complexity of these calculation, one may wonder how ohmic contacts could ever be realized. One

possible explanation consists in assuming that height of the Shottky barrier, eφ

B

, may be zero. This may

happen in a few cases. But more likely is the scenario in which heavy amorphization of the interface may

result in a very heavily doped – almost metallic – thin layer of semiconductor. The very high doping will result

ECE609 Spring 2008 146

in such a thin depletion layer, that tunneling across this barrier may be a dominant process, almost killing the

resistance of the contact. This can be seen easily from Eq. (123): For W << ¯ h/(2m

∗

S

eφ

t

B

)

1/2

, the WKB

exponential approaches unity, thus resulting in a very large current. Similarly from Eq. (125), noticing that

the ﬁeld F

z

is inversely proportional to W.

• MOS capacitors.

The Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (MOS) – or Metal-Insulator-Semiconductor (MIS) – diode is arguably the

most used and useful device in VLSI technlogy. Its ideal structure is shown in the ﬁgures below.

eφ

B

eφ

M

eχ

eψ

B

eV

FB

< 0

E

F,M

E

C

E

V

E

i

E

F,S

METAL INSULATOR SEMICONDUCTOR

FLAT BANDS

E

F,M

E

C

E

V

E

i

E

F,S

METAL INSULATOR SEMICONDUCTOR

ZERO BIAS

ECE609 Spring 2008 147

eV

G

< 0

E

F,M

E

C

E

V

E

i

E

F,S

METAL INSULATOR SEMICONDUCTOR

ACCUMULATION

eV

G

> 0

E

F,M

E

C

E

V

E

i

E

F,S

METAL INSULATOR SEMICONDUCTOR

INVERSION

Starting from a semiconducting substrate (assumed to be p-type in the ﬁgures), an insulator is grown or

deposited on the substrate. Typically, the natural oxide of Si, SiO

2

, is thermally grown by heating the Si wafer

to temperatures in the range 850-1000

o

C in oxygen-rich ambient. The relative simplicity of this process (which,

however, must be extremely clean) and the unsurpassed electronic properties of SiO

2

are probably the reasons

why Si has been the dominant material in microelectronics. After the growth or deposition of the insulator a

metal (or highly-doped polycrystalline Si) is deposited over it. In the ﬁgures a metal is considered.

At ‘ﬂat band’ the alignement of the bands is illustrated in the ﬁrst ﬁgure. In the ideal case, charge would ﬂow

across the insulator, so that the Fermi levels in the metal, E

F,M

, and in the semiconductor, E

F,S

, would

line-up and the diﬀerence, φ

MS

, between the metal and the semiconductor work-functions would vanish:

φ

MS

= φ

M

−

_

χ +

E

G

2e

+ψ

B

_

= 0 for p −type semiconductor , (126)

ECE609 Spring 2008 148

and

φ

MS

= φ

M

−

_

χ +

E

G

2e

−ψ

B

_

= 0 for n −type semiconductor . (127)

In practice, the time required for the Fermi level to line-up is extremely long and this ideal situation is never

achieved. The ﬁgure shows that the application of a small bias, the ﬂat-band voltage V

FB

, is required to

line-up the Fermi levels. Its value will be given by the nonvanishing φ

MS

of Eq. (126) or (127) above.

The application of a negative bias, V

G

, to the metal (usually called the ‘gate’) drives the MOS diode into

‘accumulation’: As seen in the ﬁgure, the bias causes an accumulation of holes at the Si-SiO

2

interface. The

application of a positive gate bias, instead, results in the ‘inversion’ of the semiconductor surface, electrons now

piling up at the interface. Let’s now consider these processes in some detail.

– Interface space-charge region.

E

C

E

i

E

F

E

V

eφ

B

eψ

eψ

s

SiO

2

Semiconductor

The ﬁgure above shows in more detail the band-diagram near the semiconductor-SiO

2

interface. Let z be the

ECE609 Spring 2008 149

coordinate along the normal to the interace, z = 0 be the location of the interftace, and let’s deﬁne by ψ(z)

the potential, taken as zero in the bulk and measured from the intrinsic Fermi level E

i

. Then, assuming the

non-degenerate limit, the electron and hole concentrations will be:

n

p

(z) = n

p0

exp

_

eψ(z)

k

B

T

_

= n

p0

exp(βψ) , (128)

p

p

(z) = p

p0

exp(−βψ) , (129)

where ψ is positive downward (as in the ﬁgure), β = e/(k

B

T), and n

p0

and p

p0

are the equilibrium

electron and hole concentrations in the bulk.

Let ψ

s

be the surface potential so that

n

s

= n

p0

exp(βψ

s

) , p

s

= p

p0

exp(−βψ

s

) (130)

are the surface concentrations of the carriers.

We can deal with the ‘exact’ Poisson equation as we have done above (see pages 133 and 134), extracting

some information before embracing the ‘usual’ depletion approximation. We have:

∂

2

ψ

∂z

2

= −

e

s

[N

+

D

+p(z) −N

−

A

−n(z)] , (131)

where

s

is the (static) dielectric constant of the semiconductor. From Eqns. (128) and (129) we have:

p

p

− n

p

= p

p0

e

−βψ

− n

p0

e

βψ

, (132)

so that, since by charge neutrality in the bulk N

+

D

−N

−

A

= n

p0

−p

p0

, we have

∂

2

ψ

∂z

2

= −

e

s

[p

p0

(e

−βψ

−1) −n

p0

(e

βψ

−1)] . (133)

ECE609 Spring 2008 150

Let’s now integrate Eq. (133) from an arbitray location z towards the bulk (z → ∞, as we have done on page

134-135, Eqns (91)-(94): Let’s multiply Eq. (133) by −∂ψ/∂z and integrate. The left-hand-side becomes:

−

_

∞

z

∂

2

ψ

∂z

2

∂ψ

∂z

dz = −

1

2

_

∞

z

∂

∂z

_

∂ψ

∂z

_

2

dz =

1

2

_

∂ψ(z)

∂z

_

2

, (134)

having used the fact that the ﬁeld vanishes as z → ∞. For the right-hand-side we get:

e

s

_

∞

z

[p

p0

(e

−βψ

−1) − n

p0

(e

βψ

−1)]

∂ψ

∂z

dz =

e

s

_

0

ψ

[p

p0

(e

−βψ

−1) − n

p0

(e

βψ

−1)] dψ =

=

e

s

β

[p

p0

(e

−βψ

+βψ −1) − n

p0

(e

βψ

−βψ −1)]. (135)

Therefore we have the following relationship between ﬁeld and potential at any location z:

F

2

=

_

2k

B

T

e

_

2

_

ep

p0

β

2

s

_

_

(e

−βψ

+βψ −1) +

n

p0

p

p0

(e

βψ

−βψ −1)

_

. (136)

Introducing the Debye length, L

D

= [k

B

T/(e

2

p

p0

)]

1/2

(the dielectric screening length in the p-type

non-degenerate bulk Si), and denoting as G(βψ, n

p0

/p

p0

)

2

the term in square brackets in Eq. (136), we

have:

F =

∂ψ

∂z

= ±

2

1/2

k

B

T

eL

D

G

_

βψ,

n

p0

p

p0

_

, (137)

the plus (minus) sign valid for ψ > 0 (ψ < 0).

The charge at the interface can now be expressed using Gauss law and the value of the ﬁeld at the interface

(obtained by setting ψ = ψ

s

in Eq. (137)):

Q

s

= −

s

F

s

= ∓

2

1/2

s

k

B

T

eL

D

G

_

βψ

s

,

n

p0

p

p0

_

. (138)

ECE609 Spring 2008 151

This represents the total charge per unit area, shown in the ﬁgure below. For negative ψ

s

the charge is

positive (holes), corresponding to accumulation. At ﬂat band the total charge is obviously zero. In depletion

and weak inversion the term βψ in the function G dominates, so that he charge grows as ψ

1/2

s

. Finally,

in strong inversion the charge is negative, the term (n

p0

/p

p0

)e

βψ

s

being the dominant one. By deﬁnition,

strong inversion begins at ψ

s

= 2ψ

B

, the value of the surface potential at which the electron concentration

at the interface equals the hole concentration in the bulk.

–0.4 0.0 0.4 0.8

10

10

10

11

10

12

10

13

10

14

10

15

~ exp(–βψ

s

/2)

accumulation

~ exp(βψ

s

/2)

strong inversion

flat

band

depletion

weak

inversion

ψ

B E

C

~ ψ

s

1/2

p–type Si 300K

N

A

= 4x10

15

cm

–3

ψ

s

(Volt)

Q

s

(

c

m

–

2

)

ECE609 Spring 2008 152

In order to obtain separately the electron and hole charges, ∆n and ∆p, we must integrate p(z) and n(z)

from the surface to the bulk:

∆p = p

p0

_

∞

0

(e

−βψ

−1) dz =

ep

p0

L

D

2

1/2

k

B

T

_

0

ψ

s

e

−βψ

−1

G(βψ, n

p0

/p

p0

)

dψ , (139)

and

∆n = n

p0

_

∞

0

(e

βψ

−1) dz =

ep

p0

L

D

2

1/2

k

B

T

_

0

ψ

s

e

βψ

−1

G(βψ, n

p0

/p

p0

)

dψ . (140)

The diﬀerential capacitance of the semiconductor depletion layer is given by:

C

D

=

∂Q

s

∂ψ

s

=

s

2

1/2

L

D

1 −e

−βψ

s

+ (n

p0

/p

p0

)(e

βψ

s

−1)

G(βψ

s

, n

p0

/p

p0

)

. (141)

At ﬂat-band condition, ψ

s

= 0, so:

C

D,FB

=

s

L

D

. (142)

– Ideal capacitance-voltage characteristics.

It is very important to understand the capacitance-voltage characteristics of an MOS diode (or capacitor),

in view of their relevance to the operation of an MOS ﬁeld-eﬀect transistor. Let’s recall that we are now

interested in the ‘diﬀerential capacitance’. That is, we apply a dc (or slowly-varying) gate bias to the diode,

but, in addition, we apply a small (of the order of k

B

T/e or less) ac bias at a given frequency.

If we apply a gate bias V

G

to the gate (while keeping the semiconductor substrate grounded), part of the

voltage, ψ

s

, drops in the semiconductor and part, V

ox

, in the insulator. The latter will be given obviously by:

V

ox

= F

ox

t

ox

=

Q

s

t

ox

ox

, (143)

ECE609 Spring 2008 153

having used the fact that

s

F

s

=

ox

F

ox

, and having denoted with t

ox

the thickness of the insulator. Thus,

the ’oxide capacitance’ will be

C

ox

=

dQ

s

dV

ox

=

ox

t

ox

. (144)

But the total capacitance will also depend on the charge induced by the voltage drop in the semiconductor,

Eq. (141). Therefore the total capacitance will be the series-capacitance of the insulator, C

ox

and of the

depletion region, C

D

:

C

tot

=

C

ox

C

D

C

ox

+C

D

. (145)

For a given insulator thickness, the oxide capacitance is thus the maximum capacitance.

GATE VOLTAGE

G

A

T

E

C

A

P

A

C

I

T

A

N

C

E

high–frequency

low

frequency

C

ox

C

ox

C

FB

Looking at the ﬁgure above, in accumulation (V

G

< 0) holes pile-up very close to the semiconductor-

ECE609 Spring 2008 154

insulator interface. As the gate bias is reduced, the depletion capacitance begins to matter, depressing the

total capacitance. To estimate its value, in the depletion approximation we can write the potential in the

semiconductor as:

ψ(z) ≈ ψ

s

_

1 −

z

W

_

2

, (146)

where the depletion width W can be obtained in the usual way (see Eq. (84) above):

W ≈

_

2

s

ψ

s

eN

A

_

1/2

. (147)

Thus, the depletion capacitance will be the result of charges responding to the ac-bias at the edge of the

depletion region, so that

C

D

=

s

W

, (148)

and

C

tot

=

ox

t

ox

+ (

ox

/

s

)W

. (149)

At ﬂat band we should replace W with L

D

, while the onset of strong inversion (also called the ‘turn-on

voltage’ or, more commonly, the ‘threshold voltage’, as this marks the onset of strong conduction in MOS

ﬁeld-eﬀect transistors), we have

W = W

max

≈

_

2

s

2ψ

B

eN

A

_

1/2

=

_

4

s

k

B

T ln(N

A

/n

i

)

eN

A

_

1/2

. (150)

When the surface potential reaches the strong-inversion value, ψ

s

= 2ψ

B

, the electron concentration at the

insulator-semiconductor interface is so large (provided enough time is given to the minority carriers so that

an inversion layer is indeed formed, as we shall see below) that it will screen the ﬁeld and it will prevent any

further widening of the depletion region. Indeed, as we can see in the plot Q

s

vs. ψ

s

at page 152, a small

increment of surface potential will result in a huge increase of the electron charge. Thus, one can assume

ECE609 Spring 2008 155

that in strong inversion most of the additional V

G

will drop in the insulator and no signiﬁcant increas of

ψ

s

will occur. Therefore, Eq. (150) gives the maximum width of the depletion region. The only exception

to this is given by the application of a very quickly-varying dc bias: If the gate bias V

G

is increased very

quickly to positive values, there will be little or no time for generation/recombination processes in the bulk

to provide/absorb enough minority carriers (electrons) to feed the inversion layer. In this case ψ will exceed

2ψ

B

, W will grow beyond W

max

and the capacitance will drop below its minimum value C

min

given below

by E. (151).

As the gate bias becomes even more positive, we must distinguish two diﬀerent situations. If the applied bias

is varied slowly and the applied ac bias is of low frequency, generation and recombination processes in the

bulk may be able to follow the ac signal. Thus, electrons in the inversion layer will respond, the response of

the depletion layer will be screened by the ac-varying inversion charge and the diﬀerential capacitance will rise

back to the value given by C

ox

. If, on the contrary, the frequency of the ac signal is large, than the inversion

charge will not be able to follow the signal. The depletion capacitance will be ‘clamped’ at the minimum value

s

/W

max

, and so the total capacitance will remain at the minimum value

C

min

=

ox

t

ox

+ (

ox

/

s

)W

max

, (151)

independent of gate bias.

Experimentally the transition between the low-frequency and the high-frequency behavior happens around

1-50 Hz. However, MOS diodes built on substrates of excellent quality (small density of SRH centers) may

exhibit the low-frequency behavior only when there is no applied ac signal and the dc gate bias is varied

suﬃciently slowly (even a fast varying dc V

G

– say, a C-V sweep in a few seconds, may push the diode into

its high-frequency response).

– Deviations from ideality: Oxide charges and interface traps.

So far we have considered an ideal MOS structure in which both the insulator and the interfaces are free from

defects and impurities. This was not the case early on when MOS devices were ﬁrst fabricated. Even today,

after decades of research and development has enabled the realization of almost-ideal structures, during the

operation of a device defects may be created by energetic carriers ‘hitting’ the interface or being injected into

ECE609 Spring 2008 156

the insulator. These defects may be broadly classiﬁed into two categories: Fixed charges in the oxide and

electrically-active interface states. (The word ‘ﬁxed’ labelling the charges in the oxide refers to the fact that

their charge-state – or electronic population – does not depend on the applied bias, while their location – as

in the case of mobile Na or K ions – may depend on the bias and thermal history of the device.)

Insulator charges are typicaly either impurities (historically mobile Na and K ions were the subject of many

eﬀorts), or defects, such as dangling bonds, local stress in the SiO

2

ionic network, oxygen vacancies induced

by growth, processing – such as irradiation. Such charges have the main eﬀect of shifting the threshold voltage

V

T

= V

ox,si

+ 2ψ

B

=

Q

s

(2ψ

B

)

C

ox

+ 2ψ

B

, (152)

or the ﬂat-band voltage. In order to derive a general expression for the ﬂat-band voltage shift due to

an arbitrary distribution of charges ρ(z) inside the insulator (where z now denotes the distance from the

gate-insulator interface) let’s consider ﬁrst an ideal (free of charge) MOS capacitor originally at ﬂat-band

condition and now add a sheet of charge λ (charge per unit area) at z. This charge will induce polarization

(image) charges both in the metal and in the semiconductor. The latter charge will bend the bands and so

modify the gate bias we must apply to recover ﬂat-band. Let’s now apply an additional bias to the metal, so

to bring the semiconductor at ﬂat band. In this situation there will be no ﬁeld in the metal (by deﬁnition),

no ﬁeld in the semiconductor (as we are at ﬂat band). There will only be a constant electric ﬁeld λ/

ox

for −t

ox

< z < 0. Thus, the metal potential will have moved by an amount zλ/

ox

with respect to the

initial situation. This will be the shift of the ﬂat-band voltage caused by the sheet of charge. Therefore, for a

distribution ρ(z) of charges inside the insulator, the ﬂat-band shift will be given by:

∆V

FB

=

_

t

ox

0

z

ρ(z)

ox

dz =

1

C

ox

_

t

ox

0

z

t

ox

ρ(z) dz . (153)

Note that charges close to the gate-insulator interface have no eﬀect on V

FB

(the polarization charges at the

metal surface screen completely the oxide charges), while charges near the semiconductor-insulator interface

have maximum eﬀect.

ECE609 Spring 2008 157

Interface traps (or states) are defects – typically Si dangling bonds – whose occupation depends on the

position of the Fermi level at the insulator-semiconductor interface. They have a twofold eﬀect: Depending

on their occupation, they shift the ﬂat-band voltage, as in Eq. (153). Since for these states z = t

ox

, their

electrostatic eﬀect is strong. More importantly, becaue of the intrinsic delay in responding to an ac signal (the

time constants for emission and capture are those of SRH centers), they store charge, thus contributing to the

total capacitance of the MOS diode. Their capacitance, C

it

, is in series with C

ox

and in parallel to C

D

, so

that

C

tot

=

_

1

C

ox

+

1

C

D

+C

it

_

−1

=

C

ox

(C

D

+C

it

)

C

ox

+C

D

+C

it

. (154)

Several methods have been devised to measure the density, D

it

, of the interface traps. They all rely on a

measurement of their capacitance. Ideally, if one knew very accurately the theoretical C-V characteristics of

the diode, a comparison of the theoretically computed and experimentally measured characteristics will yield

the desired capacitance, C

it

, and so the density D

it

, since the density of the interface-trap charge at energy

E in the gap (the position of the Fermi level in the gap at a surface potential ψ

s

) will be ∝ C

it

(ψ

s

): Having

obtained C

it

from the total capacitance via Eq. (154), at a given gate bias we have:

C

it

=

dQ

it

dψ

s

= e

N

it

dE

= e D

it

, (155)

where N

it

is the total number of traps up to energy E in the gap and D

it

is the trap density per unit

area and energy in the gap. Recalling that V

G

= V

ox

+ ψ

s

, we have dV

G

= dψ

s

+ dV

ox

. Since

dQ = C

ox

dV

ox

= C

tot

dV

G

, we have dV

G

= dψ

s

+ (C

tot

/C

ox

) dV

G

, and so we can obtain

dψ

s

/dV

G

from the relation

dψ

s

dV

G

= 1 −

C

tot

C

ox

. (156)

Thus, from Eqns. (149), (155), and (156) we can extract dQ

it

/dψ

s

:

D

it

(E) =

dQ

it

dψ

s

=

C

tot

e

_

dψ

s

dV

G

_

−1

−

C

d

e

. (157)

ECE609 Spring 2008 158

This is the density of interface traps per unit energy in the gap at the energy E which, as we said above,

indicates the position of the Fermi level inside the semiconductor gap at the interface.

In practice, detailed theoretical curves C − V are hard to compute. Therefore, typically one replaces the

theoretical curve with a C-V curve obtained under conditions such that the interface traps do not respond.

Since the characteristic time of the response of the trap is of the order of

τ =

1

v

th

σn

i

exp

_

−

e(ψ

B

−ψ

s

)

k

B

T

_

, (158)

(for a p-type substrate), either a low-temperature measurement (so that at a given ac frequency ω the response

time τ becomes so long that the trap occupation does not vary) or a high-frequency measurement will provide

almost ideal C-V characteristics. A comparison between high-frequency and low-frequency measurements (or

high-T and low-T measurements) will provide C

it

.

There are two major corrections we should make to the analysis followed so far: We have used the non-degenerate

limit (using Maxwell-Boltzmann instead of Fermi-Dirac statistics in relating carrier density to (quasi)Fermi levels)

and we have ignored completely all quantum mechanical properties of the electrons.

The ﬁrst correction – important at large densities such as strong inversion and accumulation – complicates the

mathematical analysis so that it becomes impossible to derive analytically even the relations ﬁeld/potential or

surface-ﬁeld/total-charge given by Eqns. (137) and (138). Only numerical work can give us reliable answers.

Yet, the analysis followed so far is qualitatively correct and gives a quantitatively correct picture in the important

region covering weak-accumulation to weak inversion.

Quantum mechanical properties are usualy important in transport. So far, we have limited our attention to

electrostatics. Yet, even the electrostatic poperties can be aﬀected by quantum mechanics when the charge

carriers are conﬁned within regions of size comparable to (or, a fortiori, smaller than) the thermal wavelength

of the electrons. Accumulation and inversion layers are such reasons and they do present this problem. Let’s

consider this situation in more detail, limiting our attention to inversion layers.

ECE609 Spring 2008 159

– Quantization eﬀects in inversion layers.

The thermal wavelength, λ

th

, of an electron is given by the deBroglie relation λ

th

= h/p

th

= 2π/k

th

,

where p

th

= ¯ hk

th

is the average momentum of electrons at thermal equilibrium. For the average carrier

energy at thermal equilibrium we have E

th

= (3/2)k

B

T = ¯ h

2

k

2

th

/(2m

∗

), so that, at 300K,

λ

th

=

2π¯ h

(3m

∗

k

B

T)

1/2

≈ 6.2

_

m

0

m

∗

_

1/2

nm (159)

Consider the Si-SiO

2

interface in inversion/strong-inversion. The electron density n

s

(the ‘sheet density’ per

unit area, see the ﬁgure at page 152) is of the order of 10

11

-to-10

13

cm

−2

, corresponding to an interfacial

ﬁeld F

s

= en

s

/

s

of the order of 10

4

-to-10

6

V/cm. Thus, an electron of thermal energy ((3/2)k

B

T ≈ 40

meV) will be ‘squeezed’ by the ﬁeld against the interface over a conﬁning distance ∆z ≈ 3k

B

T/(2F

s

),

very much like a particle in a box considered before. This distance is of the order of 40-to-0.4 nm, comparable

or even smaller than the electron thermal wavelength. We are not allowed to ignor the wave-like nature

of electrons when we conﬁne them so tightly: We expect that discrete energy levels will emerge from

the conﬁnement. If we conﬁne a particle in a region of width ∆z, by Heisenberg’s principle the particle

momentum will suﬀer an uncertainty ∆k ∼ 1/∆z, so that the conﬁned particle will have a minimum energy

E

0

∼ ¯ h

2

∆k

2

/(2m

∗

) ∼ ¯ h

2

/(2∆z

2

m

∗

), called the ‘zero-point energy‘. In strong inversion this energy

may be comparable to (or even larger than) the thermal energy, and quantum eﬀects due to the conﬁnement

should not be ignored.

A simpliﬁed case exempliﬁes the situation. Consider a ‘triangular well’: Electrons are conﬁned at the left

(z = 0) by an inﬁnitely high potential wall (mimicking the Si-SiO

2

barrier) and at the right by a potential

eφ(z) = F

s

z, where F

s

is constant ﬁeld given for example, by Gauss law, F

s

= en

s

/

s

, as we just saw.

Assuming either spherical bands or ellipsoidal valleys with principal axes aligned with the plane of the interface

and its normal, since the potential is a function of the coordinate z alone, the ‘eﬀective mass’ (or ‘envelope’)

wave equation (see page 31 of the Lecture Notes) can be solved by separating variables (see page 34 of

the Lecture Notes): Writing ψ(x, y, z) = ψ

x

(x)ψ

y

(y)ψ

z

(z), the factors ψ

x

(x) and ψ

y

(y) will be just

right-travelling or left-travelling plane waves of the form ∼ exp(±ik

x

x) and ∼ exp(±ik

x

x), respectively.

ECE609 Spring 2008 160

The factor ψ

z

(z), instead, obeys the Schr¨ odinger-like eﬀective mass equation:

−

¯ h

2

2m

z

d

2

dz

2

ψ

z

(z) + eF

z

zψ

z

(z) = E ψ

z

(z) , (160)

where m

z

is the eﬀective mass along the direction normal to the interface. The boundary conditions on ψ

z

are, obviously, ψ

z

(0) = 0 and ψ

z

(z → ∞) = 0.

Equation (160) can be written as

d

2

dz

2

ψ

z

(z) −

2m

z

eF

s

¯ h

2

_

z −

E

eF

s

_

ψ

z

(z) = 0 . (161)

Let’s now change independent the variable to t = (2m

z

eF

s

/¯ h

2

)

1/3

[z −E/(eF

s

)] and set u(t) = ψ

z

(z),

so that Eq. (161) becomes:

u

tt

− t u = 0 , (162)

where the prime denotes derivative with respect to t and the boundary conditions are u(t

0

) = 0 and

u(t → ∞) = 0, having indicated with t

0

the value of t corresponding to z = 0:

t

0

= −

E

eF

s

_

2m

z

eF

s

¯ h

2

_

1/3

(163)

As trivial as this equation may appear, it is actually one of the possible forms in which the Bessel equation

may be cast. Its solutions – shown in the ﬁgure together with the similar function Bi(t) we are not interested

in now – are functions called ‘Airy functions’:

ECE609 Spring 2008 161

u(t) = Ai(t) =

1

3

t

1/2

_

I

−1/3

_

2

3

t

2/3

_

+ I

1/3

_

2

3

t

2/3

__

=

_

t

3π

_

1/2

K

1/3

_

2

3

t

2/3

_

,

(164)

where I

±1/3

(x) are ‘modiﬁed Bessel functions of the ﬁrst kind’ and K

1/3

(x) is the ‘modiﬁed Bessel function

of the second kind’, all of order 1/3. An integral representation of the Airy function (useful for numerical

evaluation) is:

Ai(t) =

1

2π

_

∞

−∞

e

i(tz+z

3

/3)

dz . (165)

This shows that our solution u(t) = Ai(t) vanishes as t → ∞, so the boundary condition at the right is

always satisﬁed. Not so for the other boundary conditions: Only particular values of E such that Ai(t

0

) = 0

(where t

0

is given by Eq. (163) above) are acceptable. The ﬁrst few roots of Ai(t) are at t=-2.33811, -

4.08795, -5.52056, -6.7867144, ..., so that only discrete values of E (let’s call them E

n

) are acceptable. An

ECE609 Spring 2008 162

approximated formula for the roots of the Airy functions yields:

E

n

=

_

¯ h

2

2m

z

_

1/3

(eF

s

)

2/3

]t

n

] ≈

_

¯ h

2

2m

z

_

1/3 _

3πeF

s

2

_

n +

3

4

__

2/3

, (166)

for n = 0, 1, 2, ..., having approximated the roots of the Airy function by t

n

≈ −[(3π/2)(n + 0.75)]

2/3

.

Thus, the solutions of Eq. (160) are associated to a discrete spectrum of eigenvalues E

n

and can be written

as:

ψ

z,n

(z) = Ai

_

_

2m

z

eF

s

¯ h

2

_

1/3

_

z −

E

n

eF

s

_

_

. (167)

These functions are shown in the ﬁgure in the next page, together with the conﬁning potential eF

s

z. Note

that there are two families (called ‘ladders’) of solutions: Indeed we are illustrating the case of Si. We

have two minima of the conduction band sitting at the center of ellipsoidal equi-energy surfaces with the

longitudinal axis along z. For this two-fold degenerate family, m

z

= m

L

≈ 0.9m

0

. Their energy levels and

wavefunctions are shown as solid lines. In addition, there are 4 minima such that m

z

= m

T

≈ 0.19m

0

. By

Eq. (166), for a given n their energy is higher, thanks to the smaller mass. This second four-fold degenerate

ladder of eigenlevels is called the ‘primed’ ladder (with eigenvalues denonetd by E

n

t

) and the corresponding

eigenvalues and (squared) wavefunctions are shown as dashed lines in the ﬁgure.

ECE609 Spring 2008 163

0 5 10 15 20 25

0.00

0.05

0.10

0.15

DISTANCE FROM INTERFACE ( nm )

S

Q

U

A

R

E

D

W

A

V

E

F

U

N

C

T

I

O

N

S

(

a

r

b

.

u

n

i

t

s

)

a

n

d

P

O

T

E

N

T

I

A

L

(

V

)

ECE609 Spring 2008 164

0 20 40 60 80

–0.1

0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.0

1.1

z (nm)

p

o

t

e

n

t

i

a

l

(

V

)

0 5 10 15

–0.20

–0.10

–0.00

0.10

0.20

0.30

0.40

0.50

0.60

z (nm)

p

o

t

e

n

t

i

a

l

(

V

)

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

0.0

0.3

0.6

0.9

1.2

1.5

quantum

classical

z (nm)

e

l

e

c

t

r

o

n

d

e

n

s

i

t

y

(

1

0

2

0

c

m

–

3

)

The ‘energy levels’ are actually ‘bands’ (properly called ‘subbands’) since only the motion along the z axis is

quantized. The motion of the electrons on the plane of the interface is still ‘free’, so each index n labels a

band of energy E

n

(k

x

, k

y

) = (¯ h

2

/2)(k

2

x

/m

x

+k

2

y

/m

y

) +E

n

.

The ‘triangular well approximation’ just considered is ‘instructive’ but not generally accurate. To properly

account for conﬁnement eﬀects we must solve the envelope Schr¨odinger-like equation

−

¯ h

2

2m

z

d

2

dz

2

ψ

z

(z) + eV (z)ψ

z

(z) = E ψ

z

(z) , (168)

where the potential eV (z) is the solution of the Poisson equation

d

2

V (z)

dz

2

=

e

s

[N

+

A

−n(z)] , (169)

where N

+

A

is the density of ionized acceptors in the p-type substrate and the electron density n(z) is given

ECE609 Spring 2008 165

by:

n(z) =

∞

i=0

n

i

(E

F

) ]ψ

z,i

(z)]

2

, (170)

where

n

i

(E

F

) =

m

d

k

B

T

π¯ h

2

ln

_

1 + exp

_

F

F

−E

i

k

B

T

__

, (171)

is the occupation of the subband i (see homework assignement 5). Thus, we must solve simultaneously (‘self-

consistently’) Eqns. (168) and (169) (note that the electron charge density depends on the wavefunctions

which, in turn, depend on the potential), while computing the Fermi level so that

i

n

i

(E

F

) yields the

desired total electron sheet density. The problem is usually solved iteratively, by starting with an appropriate

‘guess’ for the potential (the semiclassical solution or even the depletion approximation), by solving the

Schr¨ odinger equation, Eq. (168), computing the Fermi level E

F

at the desired density for the subband

energies E

i

obtained from the solution of the Schr¨odinger equation, computing the charge density en(z)

and solving the Poisson equation Eq. (169). The cycle is then repeated, by solving Eq. (168) with the new

potential, etc. When some convergence criterion is met (the potential or the charge density change from one

iteration to the next by no more than some preset amount), the procedure is halted. The ﬁgure above shows

a typical solution (subbands, wavefunctions, potential), as well as a comparison between the classical and

quantum-mechanical charge distribution.

There are three major eﬀects due to carrier conﬁnement in inversion layers:

1. Threshold voltage shift. The ‘zero-point energy’ E

0

(the energy of the ground-state subband) can be

noticeably above the bottom of the conduction band at the interface. Moreover, the density of states in the

CB will be reduced with respect to the bulk, 3D value. Therefore, a negative gate bias of a larger magnitude

will be required to induce a given charge density. This results in a shift of the threshold voltage, V

T

, which

is approximately given by E

0

/e.

2. Reduction of the gate capacitance. As shown in the right-most frame of the previous ﬁgure, the electron

charge density in the inversion layer peaks at the interface in the classical model, but reaches a maximum

at z = ¸z), a few tenths of nm away in the quantum-mechanical case (up to a full nm for n

s

∼ 10

13

ECE609 Spring 2008 166

cm

−3

). For an insulator thickness of the order of 1 or 2 nm, this can be a signiﬁcant eﬀect. Indeed the

oxide capacitance C

ox

=

ox

/t

ox

in inversion will be become

C

ox

→

ox

t

ox

+ (

ox

/

s

)¸z)

<

ox

t

ox

. (172)

This reduction of gate capacitance is indeed a major concern in VLSI technology.

3. Modiﬁcation of the transport properties. From the discussion above, it should be clear that electrons in

inversion layers are conﬁned in two dimensions, since they are not free to move along the direction normal

to the interface. They constitute what’s known as a ‘two dimensional electron gas’ (2DEG). Only electrons

occupying subbands at very high energy can be described once more as bulk, 3D particles, since the energetic

separation of the subbands is so small that a continuum representation is suitable. Under very strong

conﬁnement, only a few subbands will be populated. Furthermore, the energetic separation of the subbands

grows with conﬁning ﬁeld (see Eq. (166), so the density of states (DOS) is very diﬀerent from the bulk, 3D

DOS. Finally, the wavefunctions associated to the electronic states are not plane-waves any longer, so that

the matrix elements of the various collision processes will be signiﬁcantly diﬀerent from their 3D counterparts.

The net eﬀect is that the transport properties (e.g., mobility and saturated velocity) are signiﬁcantly aﬀected

by the quantum conﬁnement. Note that we can still employ the semiclassical Boltzmann Transport Equation

to describe transport (under the same approximations), but now the BTE describes a 2D system with only

two degrees of freedom, those on the plane of the interface. We shall see in detail some of these eﬀects

when dealing with MOS Field-Eﬀect Transistors.

– Tunneling eﬀects.

The ﬁnal eﬀect we must consider is electron tunneling across the insulator. This is becoming an increasingly

important process. Let’s see why. As illustrated in the ﬁgure, electrons can tunnel either via ‘direct tunneling’

(at left, for thin insulators and/or small insulator ﬁelds) or via ‘Fowler-Nordheim tunneling’ (at right, for thick

insulators and/or strong ﬁelds). Using the usual WKB approximation, the tunneling probabilities in the two

ECE609 Spring 2008 167

cases are: For direct tunneling:

P

d

≈ exp

_

−

4(2em

ox

)

1/2

3¯ hF

ox

φ

t3/2

B

[1 −(1 −t

ox

F

ox

/φ

t

B

)]

3/2

_

∼ exp

_

−

2(2m

ox

eφ

t

B

)

1/2

¯ h

t

ox

_

= e

−2κ t

ox

, (173)

where F

ox

is the ﬁeld in the insulator, m

ox

the eﬀective mass in the gap of the insulator, φ

t

B

= φ

B

− E

0

is the eﬀective barrier height, reduced by the energy E

0

of the bottom subband in the inversion layer, t

ox

is

the insulator thickness, the last step has been made assuming a thin insulator (t

ox

<< φ

t

B

/F

ox

), and we

have deﬁned an ‘average’ decay constant κ = (2m

ox

eφ

t

B

)

1/2

/¯ h. For FN-tunneling, instead:

P

FN

≈ exp

_

−

4(2em

ox

)

1/2

3¯ hF

ox

φ

t3/2

B

_

= = e

−(4/3)κ z

t

, (174)

where z

t

= φ

t

B

/F

ox

is the tunneling distance across the triangular barrier. As device scaling progresses,

thinner and thinner insulators are used, together with a reduced applied bias. When insulators were 10 nm

thick and the applied bias was of the order of 5 V, FN tunneling was the only concern. This possibly caused

only minor ‘leakage’ when the devices were turned-on very strongly, so only during the ‘on’ state. Today,

instead, insulators are as thin as 2 nm (or even less). Even if the applied bias has been reduced to less than

1 V, from Eq. (173) it is clear that direct tunneling is becoming increasingly important. The major cause

of concern is its independence of bias: Electrons can tunnel across the ‘trapezoidal’ (or almost ‘rectangular’

barrier) under any bias condition. This leakage in the ‘oﬀ-state’ causes unwanted power dissipation and it

constitutes one of the problems (if not ‘the’ problem) we must face attempting to scale devices to even smaller

dimensions.

ECE609 Spring 2008 168

–20 0 20 40 60 80

–1.0

–0.5

0.0

0.5

1.0

1.5

2.0

2.5

3.0

3.5

eφ

B

– E

0

direct tunneling

z (nm)

p

o

t

e

n

t

i

a

l

(

V

)

–80 –60 –40 –20 0 20 40 60 80

–1.0

–0.5

0.0

0.5

1.0

1.5

2.0

2.5

3.0

3.5

eφ

B

– E

0

Fowler–Nordheim tunneling

z (nm)

p

o

t

e

n

t

i

a

l

(

V

)

ECE609 Spring 2008 169

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