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3, SEPTEMBER 2008 543

AlGaN/GaN High Electron Mobility Transistor
Structures: Self-Heating Effect and
Performance Degradation
Svetlana A. Vitusevich, Andrey M. Kurakin, Norbert Klein, Mykhailo V. Petrychuk,
Andrey V. Naumov, and Alexander E. Belyaev

Abstract—This paper reports on the results of the experimental is caused by the decrease in the saturation carrier velocity and
and numerical investigation into the self-heating effect in AlGaN/ 2DEG density in the HEMT [11]. The degradation rates of key
GaN heterostructures grown on sapphire and SiC substrates. It parameters extracted from continuous- and pulsed-wave-mode
shows that temperature increase has an opposite dependence on
the buffer thickness for sapphire and SiC substrates. Noise spec- measurements, with respect to the operation temperature, have
troscopy is also used to monitor the self-heating effect. Moreover, already been reported for HEMT structures with sapphire and
it is shown that the room-temperature spectra can be used to Si substrates [12]. Devices suffer from pronounced degradation
determine the activation energy of the traps. An irreversible im- when thin substrates reduce the thermal impedance due to
provement in mobility and quantum scattering time is registered the heat-spreading effect [13]. Different thermal impedance
after the irradiation of AlGaN/GaN heterostructures at a total
dose of 1 × 106 rad of 60 Co gamma rays. substrates have been employed to study heat dissipation in
the structure [14]–[17]. It has been demonstrated that the
Index Terms—Heating, high-electron mobility transistors temperature increase for similar devices on sapphire and SiC
(HEMTs), noise measurement, reliability, spectroscopy.
substrates at the same added power is about twice as high
I. I NTRODUCTION as that on sapphire-based substrates. To overcome the low
thermal conductivity of sapphire, a flip-chip integration with

H IGH-ELECTRON mobility transistor (HEMT) structures
based on III-nitride materials have extensively been stud-
ied over the last few years [1]–[4] as promising materials
a high-thermal-conductivity AlN substrate can be used [18].
However, this approach demands additional process steps, such
as metal contact pad deposition and flip-chip bonding by simul-
for the development of high-speed communication systems. taneously applying heat and pressure to the carrier substrate
Much progress has been made on the design and fabrication and the HEMT, followed by a thermal reflow of the solder
of the structures and on understanding their unique transport material. The alternative to flip-chip technology for improving
properties. However, one of the main challenges still consists of the performance of the devices is the use of a high-thermal-
finding an optimal layered structure to enhance the reliability of conductivity SiC substrate. At the same time, SiC substrates
HEMTs [5], [6]. The performance degradation of a biased 2-D are very expensive to produce. Therefore, the most important
electron gas (2DEG) in AlGaN/GaN heterostructures depends issue is finding a new optimized payload concept. In this paper,
on the properties of the material, which, in turn, are defined we report on our study of the self-heating effect, taking into
by changes in the parameter performance that are caused by account the thickness of the buffer layer. In addition, low-
the self-heating effect at a high level of dissipated power in frequency noise spectral characteristics and small doses of
the channel [7]–[10]. A significant reduction in the saturation gamma radiation treatment are used to monitor the origin of the
drain current is achieved by increasing the temperature. This processes, which limit the reliability of the HEMT structures.
This paper is organized as follows: Section II describes the
Manuscript received November 30, 2007; revised March 27, 2008. Current HEMT structure simulation results. Section III presents the ex-
version published October 16, 2008. This work was supported in part by the
Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science, the Deutsche Forschungsgemein-
perimental details. In Section IV, we report on the transport and
shaft under Contract KL1342, and the Office of Naval Research under Grant noise properties in AlGaN/GaN heterostructures and discuss
N00014-01-0828. our results. Section V outlines the main conclusions.
S. A. Vitusevich is with the Forschungszentrum Juelich, 52428 Juelich,
Germany (e-mail:
A. M. Kurakin is with the Institute of Bio- and Nanosystems, Research
Center Juelich, 52425 Juelich, Germany (e-mail: II. H EAT D ISSIPATION S IMULATION
N. Klein is with the Forschungszentrum Juelich, Institut fuer Bio- und
Nanosysteme (IBN), and the Center of Nanoelectronic Systems for Information Fig. 1 shows a schematic plot of the simulated device. The di-
Technology (CNI), 52425 Juelich, Germany (e-mail: mensions are typical of HEMT structures used for measurement
M. V. Petrychuk is with the Department of Radio Engineering, Na-
tional Taras Shevchenko University of Kiev, 01033 Kiev, Ukraine (e-mail: transport and noise properties: a 2.5 × 2.5 mm2 substrate and buffer area for different calculated values of the height of the
A. V. Naumov and A. E. Belyaev are with the V. Lashkaryov Institute of buffer layer. The active area is defined as a part of the channel
Semiconductor Physics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, 03028
Kiev, Ukraine (e-mail:; between two transmission line model (TLM) contacts, with a
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TDMR.2008.2001684 length L of 25 μm and a width W of 100 μm.

1530-4388/$25.00 © 2008 IEEE

Calculated temperature rise in the channel of the TLM device structure of AlGaN/GaN HEMTs for the sapphire substrate thickness of 300 μm as a of AlGaN/GaN HEMTs for a buffer layer thickness of 3 μm as a function function of the buffer thickness. 3. atures is about 90 K.544 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON DEVICE AND MATERIALS RELIABILITY. The results demonstrate the advantages of using the struc- The thermal impedances were obtained for L = 25 μm using tures with a thicker buffer layer. y. is related to Pdis through thermal impedance θ = ΔT /Pdis .e. 3). taking into account that the nonlinear heat Pdis is the dissipated power. SEPTEMBER 2008 Fig. A common geometry is used for simulating heat dissipa. as in the over the remaining surface (q = 0). NO. Scematic of the simulated HEMT structures with a sapphire or Fig. except at the bottom. i. at a thicker buffer of 10 μm. (Closed square) Results taking into account the substrate. VOL. but. 1. The active area is defined as a part of the channel between two of AlGaN/GaN HEMTs for a substrate thickness 300 μm as a function of the TLM contacts. the difference in the overheating temper- uate channel temperature T averaged over the channel area. 2. . we calculated the overheating temperatures for different area (conducting channel) on top of the buffer layer. continuous heat flux at the transfer equation and its boundary conditions for temperature buffer–substrate boundary. The calculation results are shown in Figs.2 W/cmK for the GaN buffer. buffer thickness. only about 30 K. 4. where case of constant thermal conductivity λ0 = λ(T0 ). by Kirchhoff T an isothermal condition is provided by a good thermal contact transformation [19]: Tl = T0 + (1/λ0 ) Tlnl λ(T  )dT  . These conditions allow us to tained results are shown in Fig. (Circle) SiC substrate. In addition. 2 and 3. The temperature rise ΔT = T − T0 in the channel difference becomes smaller.35 W/cmK for sap- phire. and adiabatic thermal conditions all Tnl (x. 4. 3. the temperature dependence in the thermal conductivity of the self-heating of the HEMTs grown on sapphire can be reduced if buffer and substrate layers. thickness of 1 μm. i. The The investigated structures were grown using metal–organic HEMTs designed on the sapphire and SiC substrates demon. this Sch = W L. As can be seen. where buffer thicknesses. As shown in the figure. z) can be reduced to linear form Tl (x. a substrates. the solution of the problem is a thicker buffer layer is used. E XPERIMENTAL D ETAIL for the SiC materials. (Circle) SiC substrate. Calculated temperature rise in the channel of the TLM device structure Fig. Fig. y. 8. chemical vapor deposition on sapphire (001) and SiC strate similar substrate thickness dependence. material has a strong temperature dependence on the thermal The boundary conditions can be set as follows: a constant conductivity [20]. temperature dependence of substrate thermal conductivity.e. If we neglect the thickness was also revealed (Fig. Calculated temperature rise in the channel of the TLM device structure SiC substrate. It should be noted that the sapphire reduced to the Laplace equation [19]. and λ = 3.. The ob- under a certain temperature T0 .. (Square) Sapphire constant thermal conductivity. (Open square) Results for the substrate with of different substrate thicknesses. To study such an influence of tempera- heat flux q = Pdis /(W L) from the hot zone in the active ture. strong dependence of the increase in temperature on buffer tion and heat transfer in the TLM device. at a buffer determine the temperature distribution in the substrate and eval. the substrate thermal conductivity λ = 0. z).5 W/cmK III. (Square) Sapphire substrate. λ = 1.

33 Ga0. GaN insulating buffer (7. with the substrate thickness increasing spacer (∼1 nm). found that overheating in the active region of the device could ously performed in the frequency range of 1–100 kHz using be reduced using a thicker buffer layer. standard TLM devices processed on different wafers show different performances. obtained results are in good agreement with the simulation data. These features allow the study of the physical origin the appearance of the saturation region can be explained by a of the device performance changes under self-heating effect. vices grown on thick substrates because of higher overheating form electric field redistribution introduced by the gate metal temperatures at the same dissipated power. As previously shown in [21]. strates with low thermal conductance made from sapphire. from 350 to 750 μm and more slowly increasing from 750 to and GaN cap layer (1. As shown in Fig. At the same time. In order to find the best solution for wafer design. we investigated the performance of several state- of-the-art AlGaN/GaN heterostructures. The saturation current of AlGaN/ a layer structure similar to that of the sample TNS on a GaN heterostructures grown on a SiC substrate is higher than 300-μm-thick SiC substrate. grown with a layer structure that is similar to the sample The calculated overheating temperature for the dissipated TNS on 3-mm TKS.: AlGaN/GaN HEMT STRUCTURES: SELF-HEATING EFFECT AND PERFORMANCE DEGRADATION 545 strong self-heating effect and a weaker contribution by the hot- electron effects. The experimentally a low-noise preamplifier and spectrum analyzer HP 35670A. variation parameters) as the thinner sapphire substrate sample. undoped Al0. The TLM ohmic contacts were Even more interesting is the revealed influence of the buffer processed by Ti/Al/Ni/Au metallization annealed for 40 s at layer thickness on the temperature overheating values. Kuball et al. 2 as Sample labeled thick buffer layer (BFR): GaN nucleation layer a function of the substrate thickness for the sapphire and SiC (28 nm). The structures in this paper have only one thickness and a flux of 102 rad/s. 2700 μm. Our investigations of low-frequency noise spectra re- I–V plots: 1) the linear ohmic region and 2) the nonlinear sat. undoped AlN substrates. The average gamma-quanta energy was buffer layer. we state regime. [23] experimentally show that spectroscopy. The I–V characteristics were measured in the steady. barrier (23 nm). The same tendency is observed in experimentally Sample labeled SiC: The SiC substrate (SiC) was grown with obtained I–V characteristics.67 N substrate as the first layer and the buffer as the second layer).25 Ga0. In order to 100 μm. and Si3 N4 passivation layer (320 nm). that of AlGaN/GaN heterostructures grown on sapphire. Measured I–V characteristics of different layer compositions for AlGaN/GaN HEMT structures with channel L = 25 μm and a width of that they were grown in the same conditions. IV. taking into account reliability and payload. an increase in resistance. device with a common geometry (a two-layer structure with the undoped GaN buffer (1. These dimen. as shown shown in Fig. M EASUREMENT R ESULT AND D ISCUSSION Any degradation in AlGaN/GaN-based device performance Experimental current–voltage (I–V ) characteristics are is directly reflected in low-frequency noise features. Ungated be responsible for a slight decrease in the performance of de- TLM patterns were investigated in order to avoid the nonuni. despite the fact Fig. We expect that this effect will be even more significant in gated formed by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and secondary ion mass HEMT structures. same performance (taking into account 10% wafer from wafer sions were chosen in order to insure a negligibly small con. Gamma irradiation was provided by 60 Co gamma the self-heating is strongly nonuniform at the gate edge close to rays at room temperature with doses in the range of 104 –106 rad the drain.75 N barrier (25 nm).VITUSEVICH et al. understand the influence that wafer design apparently has on device performance. 5. veal features directly related to thermal effects in the struc- uration region at higher voltages. plotted in Fig. The simulation of the overheating effects in gated structures with a different buffer thickness is underway. with heat sources uniformly distributed over a rectangular area Sample labeled thick sapphire substrate (TKS): The TKS was (100 × 25 μm2 ) on top of the second layer. tribution of contact resistance. and a corresponding voltage drop in the HEMT channel. The realization of such devices requires the optimization of the layer structure design. layer. Two regions can clearly be observed on the in [24]. An increase in the buffer thickness should result about 1. 5. in an improvement in the device performance.5 μm). The structural characterization of the heterostructures was per. .1 μm).3 nm). The conducting channel of the devices had a width of the thicker sapphire substrate sample demonstrated about the 100 μm and an intercontact length L of 25 μm. 5. undoped Al0. It should be noted that an increase in substrate thickness may The structures are patterned to form TLM devices.2 MeV. we compared the simulation results of The structures have the following sequence of layers: the overheating temperature in the active region in the TLM Sample labeled thin sapphire substrate (TNS): TNS (300 μm). ture.24 mW. Reliable AlGaN/GaN-based devices for high- power or high-frequency applications should withstand high- temperature operating regimes without any loss in functionality or performance. It was previously reported [22] that an increase in operational temperature results in a decrease in mobility. increases. Spectral noise measurements were simultane. power per square micrometer of 0. For sub- 800 ◦ C.

Deviation from conventional 1/f flicker noise was observed at some transient frequency fT . which corresponds indicates that the latter process is dominant in the radiation- to the frequency separating the low-frequency 1/f range and stimulated relaxation of the TNS sample. 3. with a tendency toward noise-level suppression in a wide frequency range below fT (Fig.75. in the sample labeled BFR. It should be noted that the observed features in the low-frequency interval are caused by heat dissipation. Fig. We estimated temperature rise ΔT [Fig.78. (b) Dependence tra showed that the normalized noise level at this frequency of the characteristic time on the channel overheating. 7(b). Spectra of the current noise of the AlGaN/GaN HEMT TNS structure with channel L = 25 μm and a width of 100 μm measured for different electric fields E (in kilovolts per centimeter) of 0. as will be shown here. VOL.18. spectra clearly indicate a strain relaxation in the AlGaN layer heating occurs. 6. 0. the angular distribu. Transport and noise characteristics improved after a small The results of the electrical characterization of the structures dose of gamma radiation treatment of 106 rad. 0. increase in the channel of the AlGaN/GaN heterostructures be An integrated method for measuring the surface curvature was estimated. which results in an increase in the low-frequency 1850 cm2 /V · s (in the nonirradiated sample) to 2000 cm2 /V · s component of the noise. these investigations are useful for the analysis of traps studied at room temperature.04. which is in good agreement with literature data.6 eV. transition region as a function of ΔT . after irradiation. The estimated value of the trap energy at low-temperature mobility exhibited a greater increase after is about 0. 0. For example. Fig. A shift in the is reflected by an increase in mobility. 2. whereas the 2DEG mobility mea- tion of the XRD corresponding to the (0002). (101̄2). It was found that the transient frequency strongly depends on the dissipated power. 8.546 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON DEVICE AND MATERIALS RELIABILITY. Additionally. peak corresponding to the (0004) plane of the AlGaN layer to a The most striking result obtained for the BFR sample is the lower angle was observed after irradiation. An analysis of the high-frequency interval of the noise spec. (0004). Low-frequency noise spectra were measured at different applied voltages for the TNS sample with the highest tem- perature rise. The (PANalytical X’Pert MRD) under the conditions of symmet. changes should improve the conditions for charge transfer. The observed improvement in room-temperature 2) self-consistent solution of coupled nonlinear equations for mobility from 1380 cm2 /V · s (in the nonirradiated sample) to channel current I and channel temperature rise ΔT . Similar changes in mobility were also registered for two An exponential dependence of τ can clearly be shown in other structures. The strain relaxation in the HEMT structure could lead to dissipated power Pdis based on the theoretical model with the generation of additional defects or the structural ordering of 1) heat dissipation and heat transfer modeling in the device and native defects. This rical and asymmetrical Bragg–Laue geometry. In view of the fact that self. The latter 1460 cm2 /V · s (in the irradiated sample at a dose of 106 rad) result allowed us to plot time parameter τ . and (1̄1̄24) reflections of the GaN and AlGaN layers was The latter is consistent with the aforementioned decrease in measured by means of triple-crystal differential diffractometry strain accompanied by the structural ordering of defects. 1.09. SEPTEMBER 2008 Fig. 0. 6). 7(a)] versus used. and 3. interval was independent of the applied voltage.35. sured at low temperatures exhibited a considerable increase. To verify this statement. irradiation dose of 106 rad. This energy is associated with a nitrogen gamma radiation treatment at a dose of 106 rad (from 11 500 to vacancy. direct measurements frequency and transition intervals demands that the temperature of the elastic strain in the heterostructures were performed. This reflects the activation process of the hopping the observed improvement in room-temperature mobility from conductivity. The changes in the amplification of the oscillation amplitude after irradiation with . (a) Temperature rise as a function of the dissipated power in the channel of the TNS HEMT with L = 25 μm and T = 300 K. NO.73. the analysis of the noise spectra in both the low.52. 19 600 cm2 /V · s). 7. obtained before and after irradiation can be summarized as In order to gain an insight into the structural transformation follows: The carrier concentration is slightly decreased after an of the heterostructures during irradiation.

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National Acad- expertise is the physics of low-frequency noise in semiconductors and devices. she was an Alexander ductor nanostructures. 3. He was elected as Deputy of more than 70 journal and conference proceeding papers. he has been involved in the investigation of International Society for Optical Engineering (1993). where V. Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Belyaev is a member of the Physical Society of Ukraine (1992). the Scientific Council and understanding of nonequilibrium low-frequency on Awarding of the Ph. Germany. His primary area of Academician—Secretary of Physics and Astronomy Division. Ukraine. Kiev. and the von Humboldt Research Fellow with the Institute electrical and optical properties of quantum het- of Thin Films and Interface. NO. Kiev. State University. She is the author of more than 100 papers in refereed scientific journals. degree nology. in 1991. the Council of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine also made a significant contribution to the discovery on the Problem “Physics of Semiconductors” (1985).D. Kiev. Lashkaryov Institute of Semiconductor Physics. 8.S. He was also a Researcher with the Department for Semiconductor Heterostruc. Since 1999. degree physics from the National Taras Shevchenko Univer- in physics and mathematics from the Institute of sity of Kiev. including three the Department of Radio Engineering. she has been a Senior Scientific Researcher with FZJ. Institute of Semiconductor Physics. in 2007.D. Petrychuk received the Ph. He is currently a Research Scientist with the Institute of Bio. she became a Researcher in 1981. Andrey M. He is currently a Junior Researcher with the From 1981 to 1997. collaborated with the Research Institute “Orion” in the study of micromachined conductor Physics. National books. he has been a Scientific Advisor with the Institute of Fundamental Problems for High Tech- Mykhailo V. in 1993. Ukraine. Semiconductor Physics (ISP). electronic transport. photograph and biography not available at the time of rial characterization at the Faculty of Physics. degrees (1989). in April 2004. Juelich (FZJ). He has also been involved in the ductors and insulators from the Institute of Semi- development of measurement and automation systems. a Scientific Re. Research Center Juelich. Ukraine. Ukraine. Naumov was born in Kiev. degree in tures. Vitusevich received the M. Germany. Kiev. in 1972 and the Ph. degree in physics from the Technical University of Dortmund. emy of Sciences of Ukraine. National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. degrees in versity. From 1997 to 1999. and a Senior Scientific Researcher research interests include the physics of semicon- in 1994. 1980. Kiev. Since Prof. Juelich.D. National X-ray and metal physics from Kiev State University. he has in semiconductor physics from the Institute of Semi. he has been a Fellow His research interests include the study of the fundamental origin of 1/f noise. and the Scientific Council of noise in GaN-based structures with a 2-D conducting channel. In addition. Kiev. Kiev. respectively From 1972 to 1974. Alexander E.S. National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Belyaev received the M. degree and the he has been studying the radiation hardness of semi. VOL. Ukraine. Taras Shevchenko University of Kiev. The American Physical noise in low-dimensional quantum structures.D. He is the author of more than 250 publications. Kiev. Doctor of Science degree in the physics of semicon- conductor devices. in in radiophysics and electronics from Kiev State Uni. Kiev publication. He received the B. Kurakin received the Ph. National Academy of Sciences of circuits for microwave and millimeter-wave applications. two of which are for semiconductor functional transformers. in 1981 and the Ph. He is the author the National Program “Nanotechnology” (2000). His searcher in 1992.548 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON DEVICE AND MATERIALS RELIABILITY. degree Andrey V. Kiev. National Academy of Sciences of than 20 journal and conference proceeding papers. Her research interests include the transport and noise properties of different kinds of materials for advanced electronic devices and circuits. Germany. with the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. in 1980 and 1991. Lashkaryov Institute of Semiconductor Physics. Forschungszentrum erostructures and devices based on the structures. he was engaged in research and development of ultrasound techniques for mate- Norbert Klein. She is also the holder of seven patents. and M. The 2002.D. she was with ISP. in 2003. Since 2006. He is a member of Ukraine.Sc. He has Society (1996). Kiev. National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He is currently the Vice-Director and a Head of Department with the V.S.and Nanosystems. Juelich. SEPTEMBER 2008 Svetlana A. the Editorial Board of the journal Semiconductors. . Since 1999. Dortmund. Since 2000. Quantum Electronics and He is currently a Senior Research Scientist with Optoelectronics. He is the author of more conductor Physics.