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Development of Deep Ultraviolet (UV-C) Thin-Film Light-Emitting Diodes Grown on SiC

  • Author(s): Saifaddin, Burhan Khalid B
  • Advisor(s): Speck, James S.
  • DenBaars, Steven P.
  • et al.

UV-C LEDs in the range of 265–280 nm are needed to develop new disinfection and biotechnology applications. The market share for UV-C LED, versus UV-C lamps (Hg discharge and Xe), increased from 8% in 2008 ($240M) to 25% in 2018 ($810M). However, while low-pressure mercury lamps are ~30% energy efficient, the best commercial UV-C LEDs in the 265–280 nm range are ~2% energy efficient; InGaN blue LEDs are 80% energy efficient. Research on AlGaN LEDs has made significant progress into AlGaN material quality (including threading dislocation density and n-AlGaN electrical conductivity) but has lagged regarding light extraction efficiency. Light extraction from UV LEDs is limited by p-GaN absorption because of the lack of p-contact to p-AlGaN with AlN fraction (AlN content >50%). Furthermore, AlGaN emitters at the 265–280 nm range emit 40–50% of their emissions as transverse magnetic (TM) waves, which are harder to extract than transverse electric (TE) waves.

SiC is an absorbing substrate that has been largely overlooked in developing UV-C LEDs, even though it has a small lattice mismatch with AlN (~1%) and a similar Wurtzite crystal structure and is more chemically stable. We demonstrate the first lateral thin-film flip-chip (TFFC) ultraviolet (UV) light-emitting diodes grown on SiC. UV LEDs were made at 310 nm, 298 nm, 278 nm, and 265 nm.

In this dissertation, we discuss the design, epi development, and fabrication of TFFC AlGaN LEDs with reflective p-contacts. The AlGaN:Mg growth temperature and the Mg doping profile in AlGaN:Mg were found to significantly impact the electroluminescence (EL) efficiency of the AlGaN MQWs. KOH roughening enhanced the light-extraction efficiency (LEE) by 100% and by ~180–200% for UV LEDs with 10 nm p-GaN and 5 nm p-GaN, respectively, without affecting the devices’ IV characteristics. The thin-film architecture led to a high LEE of about ~28–30% without LED encapsulation when used with LEDs with 5 nm p-GaN. The best light extraction efficiency in the literature is ~24% (without LED encapsulation) for a 275 nm flip-chip LED grown on PSS sapphire substrate. KOH roughening of AlN is discussed and is compared to KOH roughening of N-Face GaN. To advance LEE further, we attempted to develop LEDs with transparent current n-AlGaN spreading layers as well as highly doped n+-AlGaN tunnel junctions on top of UV-C LEDs. Reflective and ohmic n-contacts with low resistivities were developed for the n-Al.58Ga.42N regrown by MBE. Furthermore, a highly reflective MgF2/Al omnidirectional mirror was developed, which can be used with n-contact microgrid to further enhance the LEE in UV-C LEDs with a transparent tunnel junction.

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