Development of InAlN HEMTs for space application

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Smith, Matthew D.
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University College Cork
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This thesis investigates the emerging InAlN high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) technology with respect to its application in the space industry. The manufacturing processes and device performance of InAlN HEMTs were compared to AlGaN HEMTs, also produced as part of this work. RF gain up to 4 GHz was demonstrated in both InAlN and AlGaN HEMTs with gate lengths of 1 μm, with InAlN HEMTs generally showing higher channel currents (~150 c.f. 60 mA/mm) but also degraded leakage properties (~ 1 x 10-4 c.f. < 1 x 10-8 A/mm) with respect to AlGaN. An analysis of device reliability was undertaken using thermal stability, radiation hardness and off-state breakdown measurements. Both InAlN and AlGaN HEMTs showed excellent stability under space-like conditions, with electrical operation maintained after exposure to 9.2 Mrad of gamma radiation at a dose rate of 6.6 krad/hour over two months and after storage at 250°C for four weeks. Furthermore a link was established between the optimisation of device performance (RF gain, power handling capabilities and leakage properties) and reliability (radiation hardness, thermal stability and breakdown properties), particularly with respect to surface passivation. Following analysis of performance and reliability data, the InAlN HEMT device fabrication process was optimised by adjusting the metal Ohmic contact formation process (specifically metal stack thicknesses and anneal conditions) and surface passivation techniques (plasma power during dielectric layer deposition), based on an existing AlGaN HEMT process. This resulted in both a reduction of the contact resistivity to around 1 x 10-4 Ω.cm2 and the suppression of degrading trap-related effects, bringing the measured gate-lag close to zero. These discoveries fostered a greater understanding of the physical mechanisms involved in device operation and manufacture, which is elaborated upon in the final chapter.
Transistors , Space , Nitrides , Reliability , Semiconductors , Radiation , Electronics
Smith, M. D. 2016. Development of InAlN HEMTs for space application. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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