Large disparity between gallium and antimony self-diffusion in gallium antimonide

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The most fundamental mass transport process in solids is self-diffusion. The motion of host-lattice (‘self-’) atoms in solids is mediated by point defects such as vacancies or interstitial atoms, whose formation and migration enthalpies determine the kinetics of this thermally activated process1,2. Self-diffusion studies also contribute to the understanding of the diffusion of impurities, and a quantitative understanding of self- and foreign-atom diffusion in semiconductors is central to the development of advanced electronic devices. In the past few years, self-diffusion studies have been performed successfully with isotopically controlled semiconductor heterostructures of germanium3, silicon4, gallium arsenide5,6 and gallium phosphide7. Self-diffusion studies with isotopically controlled GaAs and GaP have been restricted to Ga self-diffusion, as only Ga has two stable isotopes, 69Ga and 71Ga. Here we report self-diffusion studies with an isotopically controlled multilayer structure of crystalline GaSb. Two stable isotopes exist for both Ga and Sb, allowing the simultaneous study of diffusion on both sublattices. Our experiments show that near the melting temperature, Ga diffuses more rapidly than Sb by over three orders of magnitude. This surprisingly large difference in atomic mobility requires a physical explanation going beyond standard diffusion models. Combining our data for Ga and Sb diffusion with related results for foreign-atom diffusion in GaSb (refs 8, 9), we conclude that the unusually slow Sb diffusion in GaSb is a consequence of reactions between defects on the Ga and Sb sublattices, which suppress the defects that are required for Sb diffusion.

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Figure 1: Concentration–depth profiles of Ga and Sb isotopes in GaSb isotope heterostructures measured with SIMS.
Figure 2: Temperature dependence of the diffusion coefficients D of Ga, Sb and In in GaSb.


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H.B. acknowledges a Feodor Lynen fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. This work was supported in part by the Office of Energy Research, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Science Division of the US Department of Energy, and the US National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to E. E. Haller.

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