Theory of the electronic and optical properties of dilute bismide alloys

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Broderick, Christopher A.
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University College Cork
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Dilute bismide alloys, containing small fractions of bismuth (Bi), have recently attracted interest due to their potential for applications in a range of semiconductor devices. Experiments have revealed that dilute bismide alloys such as GaBixAs1−x, in which a small fraction x of the atoms in the III-V semiconductor GaAs are replaced by Bi, exhibit a number of unusual and unique properties. For example, the band gap energy (E g) decreases rapidly with increasing Bi composition x, by up to 90 meV per % Bi replacing As in the alloy. This band gap reduction is accompanied by a strong increase in the spin-orbit-splitting energy (ΔSO) with increasing x, and both E g and ΔSO are characterised by strong, composition-dependent bowing. The existence of a ΔSO > E g regime in the GaBixAs1−x alloy has been demonstrated for x ≳10%, a band structure condition which is promising for the development of highly efficient, temperature stable semiconductor lasers that could lead to large energy savings in future optical communication networks. In addition to their potential for specific applications, dilute bismide alloys have also attracted interest from a fundamental perspective due to their unique properties. In this thesis we develop the theory of the electronic and optical properties of dilute bismide alloys. By adopting a multi-scale approach encompassing atomistic calculations of the electronic structure using the semi-empirical tight-binding method, as well as continuum calculations based on the k•p method, we develop a fundamental understanding of this unusual class of semiconductor alloys and identify general material properties which are promising for applications in semiconductor optoelectronic and photovoltaic devices. By performing detailed supercell calculations on both ordered and disordered alloys we explicitly demonstrate that Bi atoms act as isovalent impurities when incorporated in dilute quantities in III-V (In)GaAs(P) materials, strongly perturbing the electronic structure of the valence band. We identify and quantify the causes and consequences of the unusual electronic properties of GaBixAs1−x and related alloys, and our analysis is reinforced throughout by a series of detailed comparisons to the results of experimental measurements. Our k•p models of the band structure of GaBixAs1−x and related alloys, which we derive directly from detailed atomistic calculations, are ideally suited to the study of dilute bismide-based devices. We focus in the latter part of the thesis on calculations of the electronic and optical properties of dilute bismide quantum well lasers. In addition to developing an understanding of the effects of Bi incorporation on the operational characteristics of semiconductor lasers, we also present calculations which have been used explicitly in designing and optimising the first generation of GaBixAs1−x-based devices.
Semiconductors , Photonics , Condensed matter theory
Broderick, C. A. 2015. Theory of the electronic and optical properties of dilute bismide alloys. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.