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Observation of ballistic avalanche phenomena in nanoscale vertical InSe/BP heterostructures


Impact ionization, which supports carrier multiplication, is promising for applications in single photon detection1 and sharp threshold swing field effect devices2. However, initiating the impact ionization of avalanche breakdown requires a high applied electric field in a long active region, which hampers carrier multiplication with a high gain, low bias and superior noise performance3,4. Here we report the observation of ballistic avalanche phenomena in sub-mean free path (MFP) scaled vertical InSe/black phosphorus (BP)5,6,7,8,9 heterostructures10. We use these heterojunctions to fabricate avalanche photodetectors (APDs) with a sensitive mid-infrared light detection (4 μm wavelength) and impact ionization transistors with a steep subthreshold swing (<0.25 mV dec–1). The devices show a low avalanche threshold (<1 V), low noise figure and distinctive density spectral shape. Our transport measurements suggest that the breakdown originates from a ballistic avalanche phenomenon, where the sub-MFP BP channel support the lattice impact ionization by electrons and holes and the abrupt current amplification without scattering from the obstacles in a deterministic nature. Our results provide new strategies for the development of advanced photodetectors1,11,12 via efficient carrier manipulation at the nanoscale.

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Fig. 1: Avalanche device consisting of vertical vdW heterojunction.
Fig. 2: Properties of the APDs and IMOS.
Fig. 3: The ballistic avalanche mechanism of the InSe/BP heterostructure.
Fig. 4: Ballistic transport of a vertical vdW heterojunction.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.


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This project was primarily supported by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (grant nos 2018YFA0307200, 2015CB921600, 2013CBA01603 and 2018YFA0209100), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos 61775092, 61625402, 61574076, 11374142, 11574136, 11534010, 91750109 and 61725505), the Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences CAS (grant no. QYZDY-SSW-SLH021), the State Key Laboratory of Precision Measurement Technology and Instruments Fund for open topics, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities and the Collaborative Innovation Centre of Advanced Microstructures.

Author information




X.W., F.M. and A.G. conceived and designed the experiments. A.G. fabricated the devices. A.G., Y.W., J.Z., G.Y. and T.C. conducted the transport measurements. A.G., J.L., W.H. and D.S. conducted the photoresponse measurements. Z.Z. and W.C. performed the DFT calculations. N.W. and X.C. helped to grow the BP crystals. A.G., X.W. and F.M. analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. X.W., F.M. and Y.S. supervised the research. All the authors discussed the obtained results.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Feng Miao, Yi Shi or Xiaomu Wang.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Observation of ballistic avalanche phenomena in nanoscale vertical InSe/BP heterostructures

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Gao, A., Lai, J., Wang, Y. et al. Observation of ballistic avalanche phenomena in nanoscale vertical InSe/BP heterostructures. Nat. Nanotechnol. 14, 217–222 (2019).

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