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Efficient Sub-Bandgap Light Absorption and Signal Amplification in Silicon Photodetectors


This thesis focuses on two areas in silicon photodetectors, the first being enhancing the sub-bandgap light absorption of IR wavelenghts in silicon, and the second being intrinsic signal amplification in silicon photodetectors. Both of these are achieved using heavily doped p-n junction devices which create localized states that relax the k-selection rule of indirect bandgap material. The probability of transitions between impurity band and the conduction/valence band would be much more efficient than the one between band-to-band transition.

The waveguide-coupled epitaxial p-n photodetector was demonstrated for 1310 nm wavelength detection. Incorporated with the Franz-Keldysh effect and the quasi-confined epitaxial layer design, an absorption coefficient around 10 cm-1 has been measured and internal quantum efficiency nearly 100% at -2.5V.

The absorption coefficient is calculated from the wave function of the electron and hole in p-n diode. The heavily doped impurity wave function can be formulated as a delta function, and the quasi-confined conduction band energy states, and the wave function on each level can be obtained from the Silvaco software. The calculated theoretical absorption coefficient increases with the increasing applied bias and the doping concentration, which matches the experimental results.

To solve the issues of large excess noise and high operation bias for avalanche photodiodes based on impact ionization, I presented a detector using the Cycling Excitation Process (CEP) for signal amplification. This can be realized in a heavily doped and highly compensated Si p-n junction, showing ultra high gain about 3000 at very low bias (<4 V), and possessing an intrinsic, phonon-mediated regulation process to keep the device stable without any quenching device required in today’s Geiger-mode avalanche detectors.

The CEP can be formulated with the rate equations in conduction bands and impurity states. The gain expression, which is a function of the primary photocurrent and related to the phonon absorption time, predicts the same trend of the gain increasing with temperature and decreasing with increasing primary photocurrent.

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