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GaN/NbN epitaxial semiconductor/superconductor heterostructures

Nature volume 555, pages 183189 (08 March 2018) | Download Citation

Abstract

Epitaxy is a process by which a thin layer of one crystal is deposited in an ordered fashion onto a substrate crystal. The direct epitaxial growth of semiconductor heterostructures on top of crystalline superconductors has proved challenging. Here, however, we report the successful use of molecular beam epitaxy to grow and integrate niobium nitride (NbN)-based superconductors with the wide-bandgap family of semiconductors—silicon carbide, gallium nitride (GaN) and aluminium gallium nitride (AlGaN). We apply molecular beam epitaxy to grow an AlGaN/GaN quantum-well heterostructure directly on top of an ultrathin crystalline NbN superconductor. The resulting high-mobility, two-dimensional electron gas in the semiconductor exhibits quantum oscillations, and thus enables a semiconductor transistor—an electronic gain element—to be grown and fabricated directly on a crystalline superconductor. Using the epitaxial superconductor as the source load of the transistor, we observe in the transistor output characteristics a negative differential resistance—a feature often used in amplifiers and oscillators. Our demonstration of the direct epitaxial growth of high-quality semiconductor heterostructures and devices on crystalline nitride superconductors opens up the possibility of combining the macroscopic quantum effects of superconductors with the electronic, photonic and piezoelectric properties of the group III/nitride semiconductor family.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A.H. MacDonald for fruitful discussions, and D. Storm for facilitating SIMS measurements. For the measurements performed here, we made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR) Shared Facilities, which are supported through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) program (grant DMR-1719875). The structure fabrications were realized in part at the Cornell NanoScale Facility, a member of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI), which is supported by the NSF (grant ECCS-1542081), and a CCMR Superconductor Seed. D.J. and D.J.M. acknowledge funding support from the Office of Naval Research, monitored by P. Maki. D.J.M. also acknowledges device processing support from N. Green.

Author information

Author notes

    • Rusen Yan
    •  & Guru Khalsa

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

    • Rusen Yan
    • , Suresh Vishwanath
    • , Huili G. Xing
    •  & Debdeep Jena
  2. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

    • Guru Khalsa
    • , John Wright
    • , Huili G. Xing
    •  & Debdeep Jena
  3. School of Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

    • Yimo Han
    •  & David A. Muller
  4. Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, USA

    • Sergei Rouvimov
  5. Electronics Science and Technology Division, US Naval Research Laboratory, Washington DC 20375, USA

    • D. Scott Katzer
    • , Neeraj Nepal
    • , Brian P. Downey
    •  & David J. Meyer
  6. Kavli Institute for Nanoscale Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

    • David A. Muller
    • , Huili G. Xing
    •  & Debdeep Jena

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Contributions

R.Y., S.V. and J.W. performed electrical, magnetic and magnetotransport measurements. D.S.K, N.N, B.P.D and D.J.M grew and characterized the epitaxial layers. Y.H. performed scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) analysis on thin NbNx films under the supervision of D.A.M. S.R. conducted the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) measurements. R.Y. and G.K. conducted experimental data analysis and theoretical calculations, with help from D.J. and H.G.X. R.Y., G.K. and D.J. wrote the manuscript, with input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Rusen Yan or David J. Meyer or Debdeep Jena.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks Y. Krockenberger and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature25768

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