Integrated Optical Detectors Detectors for use in integrated-optic applications must have high sensitivity, short response

time, large quantum efficiency and low power consumption [1]. In this chapter, a number of diffierent detector structures having these performance characteristics are discussed. 17.1 Depletion Layer Photodiodes The most common type of semiconductor optical detector, used in both integrated optic and discrete device applications, is the depletion-layer photodiode. The depletion-layer photodiode is essentially a reverse-biased semiconductor diode in which reverse current is modulated by the electron-hole pairs produced in or near the depletion layer by the absorption of photons of light. The diode is generally operated in the photodiode mode, with relatively large bias voltage, rather than in photovoltaic mode, in which the diode itself is the electrical generator and no bias voltage is applied [2]. 17.1.1 Conventional Discrete Photodiodes The simplest type of depletion layer photodiode is the p-n junction diode. The energy band diagram for such a device, with reverse bias voltage Va applied is shown in Fig. 17.1. The total current of the depletion layer photodiode consists of two components: a drift component originating from carriers generated in region (b) and a diffusion component originating in regions (a) and (c). Holes and electrons generated

in region (b) are separated by the reverse bias field, with holes being swept into the p-region (c) and electrons being swept into the n-region (a). Holes generated in the n-region or electrons generated in the p-region have a certain probability of diffusion to the edge of the depeletion region (b), at which point they are swept across by the field. Majority carriers, electrons in (a) or holes in (c) are held in their respective regions by the reverse bias voltage, and are not swept across the depletion layer.

Fig. 17.1 Energy band diagram for a p-n junction diode under application of a reverse bias voltage Va In order to minimize series resistance in a practical photodiode while still maintaining maximum depletion width, usually one region is much more heavily doped than the other. In that case, the depletion layer forms almost entirely on the more lightly doped side of the junction, as shown in Fig. 17.2. Such a device is called a high-low abrupt junction. In GaAs and its ternary and quaternary alloys, electron mobility is generally much larger than hole mobility. Thus, the pregion is usually made thinner and much more heavily doped than the n-region, so that the device

When αW and αLp are large enough so that ηq is approximately equal to one.will be formed mostly in n-type material. The quantum efficiency ηq of the detector. when they are not negligible. it can be shown that the total current density Jtot is given by [3] Jtot = qϕ0 _ 1 − e−αW _1 + αL p_ _ + qpn0 Dp Lp (17.1) and (17. If the interband absorption coefficient α is too small compared toWand Lp. Only those photons absorbed within the depletion layer. The first term of (17. is given by ηq = 1 − e−αW _1 + αL p_ . q is the magnitude of the electronic charge. because the dark current is usually negligibly small. which is proportional Fig. and the p-region then serves essentially just as a contact layer.2) which can have any value from zero to one. or the number of carriers generated per incident photon. This explains why that term is not proportional to the photon flux ϕ0.2) are based on the tacit assumption that scattering loss and free carrier absorption are negligibly small. is discussed in Section 17.1.2 Energy band diagram for a p+-n (high-low) junction diode under application of a reverse bias voltage Va to ϕ0. 17. the diode current is then essentially proportional to ϕ0.3. It can be seen from (17. and Pn0 is the equilibrium hole density. it is desirable to make the products αW and αLp as large as possible. Lp is the diffusion length for holes. which results from thermally generated holes in the n-material.1. 17. (17. Dp is the diffusion constant for holes. as shown in Fig. It should be noted that (17. α is the optical interband absorption coefficient.2) that. W is the width of the depletion layer. For a device with the high-low junction geometry indicated in Fig. many of the incident photons will pass completely through the active layers of the diode into the substrate. have maximum effectiveness in carrier generation.1) where ϕ0 is the total photon flux in photons/cm2s.1) represents the reverse leakage current (or dark current). 17. .2.3. The last term of (17. The effect of these loss mechanisms on the quantum efficiency. of thickness W.1) gives the photocurrent. in order to maximize ηq. and includes current from both the drift of carriers generated within the depletion layer and the diffusion and drift of holes generated within a diffusion length Lp of the depletion layer edge.

17. the time required for carriers to diffuse from depths between W and (W + Lp) can limit the high frequency response of a conventional photodiode. the long-wavelength response of a diode is limited by excess penetration of photons into the substrate. 17. 17. Thus. junction capacitance can limit high-frequency response through the familiar R-C time constant. Interband absorption is a strong function of wavelength in a semiconductor. there are some other limitations to depletion layer photodiode performance that are also important. as .Photons absorbed at depths up to a diffusion length Lp from the depletion layer edge are somewhat effective in generating photo-carriers.0 μm).1 to 1. For wavelengths near the absorption edge.4. Photons that penetrate to as depth greater than (W + Lp) before being absorbed are essentially lost to the photo-generation process because they have such a very low statistical probability of producing a hole that can reach the depletion layer and be swept across. as shown in Fig.3 Diagram of a conventional mesa-geometry photodiode with p+-n doping profile showing photon penetration Fig. 17. in that holes can diffuse into the depletion layer. which is discussed in the next section. thus producing carriers that (on average) will recombine before diffusing far enough to reach the depletion layer.4 Optical absorption versus depth from the surface in a conventional mesa photodiode slightly shorter than the bandgap wavelength.1. Since W is usually relatively small (in the range from 0. The waveguide depletion layer photodiode. its short wavelength response can be limited by too strong an absorption of photons in the p+ layer near the surface. Thus. The absorption coefficient α usually exhibits a special response curve that rises sharply at the absorption-edge (band-edge)wavelength and then saturates at awavelength that is Fig.2 Waveguide Photodiodes If the basic depletion layer photodiode is incorporated into a waveguide structure. as shown in Figs. many photons will penetrate too deeply before being absorbed. increasing slowly for yet shorter wavelengths. the photon flux ϕ(x) falls off exponentially with increasing depth x from the surface. it is impossible to design a diode with an ideal W for all wavelengths. Aside from the reduction of quantum efficiency that results from poor matching of α. Also. if α is not large enough. 17. significantly mitigates many of these problems of the conventional photodiode. where recombination probability is large. W and Lp.4. Within the semiconductor.3 and 17.

3) that scattering loss and free-carrier absorption are negligible. and InGaAs waveguide photodetectors on InP substrates also have exhibited a 5 GHz bandwidth for light in the wavelength range of 1. a 3 mm long detector formed in a 3μm wide channel waveguide has a capacitance of only 0. respectively. Due to the many improvements in performance inherent in the transverse structure of the waveguide detector. rather than being normal to the junction plane. while L can be made as long as necessary to make αL>>1.3– 1. For example. Because all of the incident photons are absorbed directly within the depletion layer of a waveguide photodetector. by merely adjusting the length L.1. Hence availability should not long be a problem.99988. as well as in optical integrated circuits.3 Effects of Scattering and Free-Carrier Absorption The relations given by (17.3) where L is the length of the detector in the direction of light propagation. (17.) Because a waveguide detector can be formed in a narrow channel waveguide. even if L is relatively large. 17. For example. This result is a further improvement in high frequency response. waveguide detectors are not commercially available as discrete devices.3) neglected the effects of free-carrier . the light is incident transversely on the active volume of the detector. In this case.32 pF. At the present time. the high frequency response can be expected to be correspondingly improved. waveguide detectors should be considered for use in discrete-device applications. as compared to the axial geometry of the conventional mesa photodiode. (Again. such as GaAs. the capacitance can be very small. predict internal quantum efficiencies as high as 94% and 75%. a number of improvements in performance are realized. not only is ηq improved. Hence.shown in Fig. Since W and L are two independent parameters. However.2) and (17.5. the carrier concentration within the detector volume and the bias voltage Va can be chosen so that the depletion layer thickness W is equal to the thickness of the waveguide.1). they can be fabricated with relative ease in many laboratories. ithas been tacitly assumed in (17. (17.6μm [5]. This capacitance is about a factor of ten less than that of a typical conventional mesa photodiode. designed for ultrawide-band operation at 60 and 100 GHz. at 1. a length of L = 3 mm would give ηq = 0. Experimentally demonstrated bandwidth of 5 GHz and quantum efficiency of 83% have been obtained with waveguide detectors on GaAs substrate material [4]. Computer simulation of waveguide photodetectors in AlGaInAs– GaInAs. for a material with the relatively small value of α = 30 cm−1. The diode photocurrent density is then given by J = qϕ0 _1 − e−αL _ . but also the time delay associated with the diffusion of carriers is eliminated. for a material with a relative dielectric constant ε = 12.55μm wavelength [6]. Thus 100% quantum efficiency can be obtained for any value of α. 17.

6) since only αIB results in carrier generation. If αs and αFC are small compared to αIB.3). they tend to reduce quantum efficiency.3) will give accurate predictions.8) with (17. or if the detector volume is heavily doped so that αs and αFC are not negligible. Schottkybarrier photodiodes would result. These are the Schottky-barrier photodiode and the avalanche photodiode. (17. (17. it is obvious that the effect of additional losses due to scattering and free-carrier absorption is to reduce the quantum efficiency by a factor of αIB/α.7) or J = qϕ0 αIB αIB + αFC + αS _1 − e(αIB+αFC+αS)L _ . a more sophisticated expression for ηq is required. For example.1) and (17. (17.4) where in general the loss coefficient α is given by α = αIB + αFC + αS. and the devices would have essentially the same performance characteristics as their p+-n junction counterparts. Becauseboth of these mechanisms result in the loss of photons without the generation of any new carriers. and (17. as is generally true. . 17. However.3 and 17.5 were replaced by a metal that forms a rectifying contact to the semiconductor. The energy band diagrams for a Schottkybarrier diode. However. Thus the photocurrent density is given by J=q L 0 G (x) dx (17.2.2) and (17.5) The hole-electron pair generation rate G(x) is given by G (x) = αIBϕ0e−αx .2 Specialized Photodiode Structures There are two very useful photodiode structures that can be fabricated in either a waveguiding or conventional. The photocurrent would still be given by (17. then (17. nonwaveguiding form. (17. 17.8) reduces to (17. if the p-type layers in the devices of Figs.1 Schottky-Barrier Photodiode The Schottky-barrier photodiode is simply a depletion layer photodiode in which the p-n junction is replaced by a metal-semiconductor rectifying (blocking) contact. even when L is large enough to maximize ηq. (17. 17.8) must be used. In many cases they can be neglected. (17.3).3).1). The photon flux at any point located a distance x from the surface of the detector on which the photons are first incident is assumed to have the form given by ϕ (x) = ϕ0e−αx . if the waveguide is inhomogeneous or is unusually rough. when the free carrier absorption coefficient αFC and the scattering loss coefficient αs are not negligible as compared to the interband absorption coefficient αIB.8) Comparing (17.absorption and photon scattering on the quantum efficiency of the detector. Such an expression can be derived as follows.

The barrier height ϕB depends on the particular metalsemiconductor combination that is used. A detailed discussion of the properties of Schottky-barrier diodes is beyond the scope of this text so that the interested reader should refer to the information available elsewhere [7]. almost anymetal (except for silver) produces a rectifying Schottky-barrier when evaporated onto GaAs or GaAlAs at room temperature. Typical values for ϕB are about 1 V. a Schottky-barrier contact is not needed for improved short-wavelength response because the photons enter the active volume transversely. Photoresist masking is adequate to define the lateral dimensions during evaporation. the quantum efficiency). It is possible to define a photomultiplication factor Mph. case of fabrication often makes the Schottkybarrier photodiode the best choice in integrated applications. The upper curve is for darkened conditions.6. 17. However. Typical current-voltage characteristics for an avalanche photodiode are shown in Fig. 17.4. given by Mph ≡ Iph Iph0 . Gold. as described in Section 17. are given in Fig. and no careful control of time and temperature is required. as in the case of diffusion of a shallow p+ layer.under zero bias and under reverse bias.e. optically transparent Schottkybarrier contact is often used (rather than a p+-n junction) to enhance shortwavelength response. Transparent conductive oxides such as indium Tin oxide (ITO) and cadmium Tin oxide (CTO) can also be used to eliminate the photon masking effect of the contacts and thereby improve the quantum efficiency. if the device is biased precisely at the point of avalanche breakdown. a thin. carrier multiplication results in increased dark current Id. However.9) . by eliminating the strong absorption of these higher energy photons that occurs in the p+ layer. In fact. It can be seen that the depletion region extends into the n-type material just as in the case of a p+n junction. 17. In a waveguide photodiode. the diode exhibits a saturated dark current Id0 and a saturated photocurrent Iph0. 17. avalanche gains as high as 104 are not uncommon. For relatively low reverse bias voltages. of either the p-n junction or Schottky-barrier type. carrier multiplication due to impact ionization can result in substantial gain in terms of increase in the carrier to photon ratio.2. aluminum or platinum are often used. under normal Fig.2 Avalanche Photodiodes The gain of a depletion layer photodiode (i. can be at most equal to unity. However. (17.2. while the lower one shows the effects of illummination.7. as well as increased photocurrent Iph.6 conditions of reverse bias. For example. In conventional mesa devices. when biased at the point of avalanche breakdown.

for a typical deplection width of 5μm. (17.10) An exact equation for the current-voltage curve is difficult to obtain in the region of bias in which avalanche breakdown occurs. given by I = Id + Iph. it can be shown that the maximum attainable multiplication factor is given by [9] M ∼= Mph ∼= _ Vb nIph0R . Generally a guard ring structure [7.11) where Vb is the breakdown voltage.12) where I is the total current. For the case of large photocurrent Iph0 >> Id0 Melchior and Lynch [9] have shown that the multiplication faSpecialized Photodiode Structures 353 M=1 1 − _ Va−I R Vb _n . Increasing leakage current due to poor surface passivation or the generation of internal defects during high current pulse operation can lead to degradation of performance as the devices age. (17. biased near avalanche breakdown. Miller [8] has represented the functional form of the photomultiplication factor by the expression Mph = 1 1 − (Va/Vb)n . given by M ≡ Iph + Id Iph0 + Id0 . Avalanche photodiodes are highly-stressed devices. Nevertheless. (17. p. Hence. Vb equals 120 V.and a multiplication factor M.14) Avalanche photodiodes are very useful detectors. In order to fabricate an avalanche photo-diode. not only because they are capable of high gain. For the case of Id0 and Id being negligibly small compared to Iph0 and Iph. However. the semiconductor material from which the diode is fabricated. (17. beginning with a dislocation free substrate wafer of semiconductor material. 11]. the field required to produce avalanche breakdown in GaAs is approximately 4 × 105 V/cm. of course. Most GaAs diodes will breakdown at much voltages lower due to other mechanisms. and n is an empirically determined exponent depending on the wavelength of light.13) R being the series resistance of the diode (including space-charge resistance if significant). and. but also because they can be operated at frequencies as high as 35 GHz [10. 203] must be employed to prevent edge breakdown. extreme care must be taken. The derivation of (17. doping concentration. (17. not every p-n junction or Schottky-barrier diode can be operated in the availanche multiplication mode. However. such as edge breakdown or microplasma generation at localized defects.12) assumes that IR << Vb. Hence. when diodes are . reliability is a question of prime concern. thus never reaching the avalanche breakdown condition. For example.

the depletion layer in a p-i-n diode extends completely through the i layer so that the total thickness of the active layer is the sum of the i-layer thickness Wi and the deplection width on the lightly doped (n) side of the junction. which depends on dopant concentrations. or the absorption coefficient.55μm wavelength with a quantum efficiency of 50% and a 3 dB bandwidth of 75 GHZ. a very lightly doped “intrinsic” layer is formed between the p and n sides of the diode. p.2. 17. [12] have reported a waveguide p-i-n photodiode operating at 1. Because of the low carrier concentration. 17.1. Because the contact fingers are very narrow and closely spaced (∼1μm) the capacitance is relatively low and the transit times of carriers are short. Hsiang et al. In the p-i-n photodiode.1. p-i-n photo-diodes are widely used as detectors in optical systems because of their high quantum efficiency (responsivity) and wide bandwidth.3 p-i-n Photodiodes In Section 17. have made Si MSM diodes with 0.8. widebandwidth operation is possible. The Schottky electrodes of the MSM photodiode are essentially identical to the gate metalization of field-effect . which projects to about 109 h at room temperature. Schottky barrier contacts formed on the surface of a thin semiconducting layer on a semi-insulating substrate.carefully fabricated and are hermetically sealed into adequate packages.2. it was pointed out that conventional photodiodes must be designed so as to have a large αW product in order to maximize ηq. finger-like. mean time to failure as high as 105 h at 170◦ C has been observed [1. The presence of the relatively thick i-layer also reduces the junction capacitance and increases the R-C cutoff frequency of the diode. but one doesn’t have complete control over either the depletion width W. A typical MSM photodiode structure is shown in Fig.4 Metal-Semiconductor-Metal Photodiodes Metal-semiconductor-Metal (MSM) photodiodes are surface-oriented devices that feature interdigitated. For example. Holes are collected by the cathode and electrons by the anode. Carriers generated by the absorption of photons in regions of the semiconducting layer between the contacts are swept by the fringing electric field and collected by the contacts. Kato et al. which depends mostly on the bandgap. but it is compensated by a balance of p. 17. Thus the device designer can adjust the total depletion width to produce a large αW product by varying the thickness of the i-layer. Spacing of the contact fingers must be less than the diffusion length of the carriers in order to produce a high collection efficiency. Hence.2μm width and spacing with a full-width-half-maximum pulse response of 3. 80]. This layer generally has a carrier concentration of less thanctor is given by 1014/cm3.7 ps. corresponding to a 3 dB bandwidth at 110 GHz [13].and n-type dopants rather than being truly intrinsic.

Mactaggart et al. which facilities their monolithic integration with FET’s. A number of different techniques have proven effective in this regard. For example.7 A/W at a wavelength of λ=1. Gao et al. They measured a responsivity of 0.3 Techniques for Modifying Spectral Response The fundamental problem of wavelength incompatibility. Approximately 350 source-coupled FET logic gates are present on the GaAs chip. MSM photodiodes have also been integrated monolithically with High-Electron-Mobility field effect Transistors (HEMT’s) to produce OEIC receivers with bandwidths larger than 14 GHz [15. However a detector depends on interband absorption for carrier generation. The responsivity of these devices to 1. respectively. [19] have integrated an m-s-m photodiode with a high-electron-mobility transistor (HEMT) on an InP substrate.7 and 47 GHz.5×100 μm2 gate HEMT had ft and fmax of 18. some means must be provided for increasing the absorption of the photons transmitted by the waveguide within the detector volume. this problem can be mitigated by using a transparent conducting material for the contact electrodes. if a detector is monolithically coupled to a waveguide. An ideal waveguide should have minimal absorption at the wavelength being used. which was encountered previously in regard to the design and fabrication of monolithic laser/waveguide structures in Chapter 14. However.3 μm). Hence. For example. The most significant disadvantage of MSM detectors is their inherent low responsibility because the metallization for the surface electrodes shadows the active light-collecting region. is also very significant with respect to waveguide detectors. .transistors. HEMT’s have also been integrated with p-i-n photodiodes to produce OEIC receivers with a bandwidth of 42 GHz [17]. [18] have fabricated InGaAs MSM photodiodes with transparent Cadmium Tin Oxide (CTO) electrodes.49 A/W. Cha et al.3 μm. [14] have made a fully-integrated 400 Mb/s burstmode data OEIC receiver for application as a phased-array antenna controller. and the 1. 17. Another approach to improve the overall responsivity of an m-s-m photodiode is to monolithically integrate it with an amplifier. along with a 780 nm wavelength MSM photodiode. with an InGaAsP buffer layer (λg = 1. 16].28 A/W for identical control samples with conventional Ti/Au electrodes.3μm light was 0. as compared to 0.

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