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AlGaN/GaN Heterojunction Bipolar Transistor: Limiting Factors and Optimum Design for High Frequency Performances

C. Monier a)*, A. G. Baca b), S. J. Pearton a), F. Ren c), P. C. Chang b), L. Zhang b), J. R. LaRoche c), J. Han b), and R. J. Shul b)

35 30 25 Gain (dB) 20 15 10 5
h21 Non-Graded base U Non-Graded base h21 Graded base U Graded base

: Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. b) : Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185. c) : Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. *: Current address at Sandia National Laboratories.

[1] L. S. McCarthy, P. Kozodoy, M. J. W. Rodwell, S. P. DenBaars, and U. K. Mishra, IEEE Electron Device Lett. 20, 277 (1999) [2] F. Ren, C. R. Abernathy, J. M. Van Hove, P. P. Chow, R. Hickman, J. J. Klaassen, R. F. Kopf, H. Cho, K. B. Jung, J. R. Laroche, R. G. Wilson, J. Han, R. J. Shul, A. G. Baca, and S. J. Pearton, MRS Internet J. Nitride Semicond. Res. 3, 41 (1998) [3] Atlas, Silvaco International (1999)

In the past few years, much experimental and theoretical effort has been directed towards the fabrication and understanding of nitride-based devices. Interest in this material has been driven by advances in high-power, high-frequency transistors. Impressive reports on AlGaN/GaN High Mobility Electron Transistors (HEMT) have motivated the development of Heterojunction Bipolar Transistors (HBT) which have demonstrated, in GaAs and InP, improved linearity over the field effect transistor counterpart. The first Npn AlGaN/GaN HBTs have been recently reported [1,2]. The structures were typically grown on c-plane (0001) sapphire substrate with a 0.5 m, Si-doped (1017 cm-3) GaN collector followed by a 0.15-0.2 m, Mg-doped (<1x1018 cm-3) GaN base and a 0.1 m, Si-doped (5x1017 cm-3) Al0.15Ga0.85N emitter. Initial results with current gain measured to be as high as 3 at room temperature were limited by a high base resistance, due to the high ionization energy of Mg-p GaN. Current gain values of 10 were also obtained at 300 0C. There have been very few attempts at simulating HBTs in these materials. This paper simulates the performance of the Npn GaN-based HBT for use in providing trends for the geometrical and epitaxial multilayer structure and in assessing the factors limiting device performances for power applications. We have simulated the operation of the Npn GaN-based HBT using a program based on the driftdiffusion model [3]. Performance analysis has been achieved by self-consistent solution of the Poisson, carrier continuity and current density equations onto a two-dimensional structure associated with specified bias conditions. Physical models incorporated in the simulation include carrier statistics and generationrecombination mechanisms. The specific contact resistance for both n and p-type materials have been also specified. Initially, the simulated performance of the GaN-based HBT has been compared with the available experimental measurements. The Gummel plot from the initial large area HBT structure (100 m x 100 m emitter) is reasonably adjusted with simulation by using minority carrier mobility and lifetime values resulting from careful analysis of data available in the literature. To overcome the critical influence of reduced lifetime on the current gain in the highly dislocated base region, we have examined the effect of the base thickness and a compositional base grading (by introducing a quasi-field) to aid carrier transport across the base. Significant

0 7 10


10 Frequency (Hz)





Figure 1: Simulated small-signal performances for Npn AlGaN/GaN HBTs with and without graded base.

improvement in (up to 20) are predicted by combining a reasonably thin base layer with a large quasi electric field. In addition to DC current gain, the small signal gain h21 and the unilateral power gain U have been calculated and plotted for small active areas (emitter width of 3 m) as a function of frequency. The corresponding cutoff frequency fT and maximum oscillation frequency fMAX were extrapolated as figures of merit for high-frequency characteristics. Average fT values of 10 GHz are observed for typical non-graded structures with 0.1 m base layers. The fMAX value was always lower than fT. The high base resistance is thought to be the cause of this result. The problematic ionization efficiency of Mg acceptors not only gives rise to high resistivity of p-type GaN layers but also makes it difficult to realize p-ohmic contacts with low resistance. The effect of these two components on the overall base resistance has been addressed. Predictions show that ideal devices with optimized base resistance exhibit fMAX values as high or even higher than fT, depending on operating bias conditions. The influence of a compositional grading in the base on the high frequency performances of the device has been analyzed. Thin base layers induce higher gain but are undesirable to minimize the base resistance. However, maximizing fMAX with regard to fT allows the base thickness not to be reduced if a base quasi-electric field is present. Figure 1 displays both h21 and U gains as a function of frequency for a 0.1 m base layer with and without Al grading. Again, the effect of the graded base is shown to be effective, and fT and fMAX as well as gain are improved as the base transit time decreases. These encouraging values are expected to increase, as issues related to defect and impurity are resolved.