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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Discovery of a photoresponse amplification mechanism in compensated PN junctions

  • Author(s): Zhou, Yuchun
  • Liu, Yu-Hsin
  • Rahman, Samia N
  • Hall, David
  • Sham, LJ
  • Lo, Yu-Hwa
  • et al.

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© 2015 Author(s). We report the experimental evidence of uncovering a photoresponse amplification mechanism in heavily doped, partially compensated silicon p-n junctions under very low bias voltage. We show that the observed photocurrent gain occurs at a bias that is more than an order of magnitude below the threshold voltage for conventional impact ionization. Moreover, contrary to the case of avalanche detectors and p-i-n diodes, the amplified photoresponse is enhanced rather than suppressed with increasing temperature. These distinctive characteristics lead us to hypothesize that the inelastic scattering between energetic electrons (holes) and the ionized impurities in the depletion and charge neutral regions of the p-n junction in a cyclic manner plays a significant role in the amplification process. Such an internal signal amplification mechanism, which occurs at much lower bias than impact ionization and favors room temperature over cryogenic temperature, makes it promising for practical device applications.

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