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III-Nitride Blue Laser Diode with Photoelectrochemically Etched Current Aperture


Group III-nitride is a remarkable material system to make highly efficient and high-power optoelectronics and electronic devices because of the unique electrical, physical, chemical and structural properties it offers. In particular, InGaN-based blue Laser Diodes (LDs) have been successfully employed in a variety of applications ranging from biomedical and military devices to scientific instrumentation and consumer electronics. Recently their use in highly efficient Solid State Lighting (SSL) has been proposed because of their superior beam quality and higher efficiency at high input power density.

Tremendous advances in research of GaN semi-polar and non-polar crystallographic planes have led both LEDs and LDs grown on these non-basal planes to rival with, and with the promise to outperform, their equivalent c-plane counterparts.

However, still many issues need to be addressed, both related to material growth and device fabrication, including a lack of conventional wet etching techniques.

GaN and its alloys with InN and AlN have proven resistant essentially to all known standard wet etching techniques, and the predominant etching methods rely on chlorine-based dry etching (RIE). These introduce sub-surface damage which can degrade the electrical properties of the epitaxial structure and reduce the reliability and lifetime of the final device. Such reasons and the limited effectiveness of passivation techniques have so far suggested to etch the LD ridges before the active region, although it is well-known that this can badly affect the device performance, especially in narrow stripe width LDs, because the gain guiding obtained in the planar configuration is weak and the low index step and high lateral current leakage result in devices with threshold current density higher than devices whose ridge is etched beyond the active region. Moreover, undercut etching of III-nitride layers has proven even more challenging, with limitations in control of the lateral etch distance.

In this dissertation it is presented the first nitride blue edge emitting LD with a photoelectrochemical etched current aperture (CA-LD) into the device active region.

Photoelectrochemical etching (PECE) has emerged as a powerful wet etching technique for III-nitride compounds. Beyond the advantages of wet etching technique, PECE offers bandgap selectivity, which is particularly desirable because it allows more freedom in designing new and advanced devices with higher performances.

In the first part of this thesis a review of PECE is presented, and it is shown how it can be used to achieve a selective and controllable deep undercut of the active region of LEDs and LDs, in particular the selective PECE of MQW active region of (10-10) m-plane and (20-2-1) plane structures is reported.

In the second part of this thesis, the fabrication flow process of the CA-LD is described. The performance of these devices is compared with that of shallow etched ridge LDs with a nominally identical epitaxial structure and active region width and it is experimentally shown that the CA-LD design has superior performance. CW operation of a (20-2-1) CA-LD with a 1.5 µm wide active region is demonstrated.

Finally, in the third and last part of this thesis, the CA-LD performance is discussed in more details, in particular, an analysis of optical scattering losses caused by the rough edges of the remnant PEC etched active region is presented.

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