Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Demonstration of electron beam laser excitation in the UV range using a GaN/AlGaN multiquantum well active layer

Abstract

This study investigated electron beam laser excitation in the UV region using a GaN/AlGaN multiquantum well (MQW) active layer. Laser emission was observed when the GaN/AlGaN MQW was excited by an electron beam, with a wavelength of approximately 353 nm and a threshold power density of 230 kW/cm2. A comparison of optical pumping and electron beam pumping demonstrated that the rate of generation of electron-hole pairs when using electron beam excitation was approximately one quarter that of light excitation.

Introduction

A number of recent breakthroughs have allowed the development of group III nitride semiconductor-based blue, green, and white light-emitting diodes (LEDs)1,2,3. These developments include the growth of high-quality GaN on sapphire, using a low-temperature (LT)-deposited buffer layer4, and the realization of conductivity control for nitrides1, 5. These technologies have also been used to create high-power violet laser diodes6, 7.

The expansion of the laser emission wavelength is a major research focus in the development of nitride semiconductor-based laser diodes. In the longer wavelength region, such diodes have been developed in both the blue8 and green regions9, 10. This has been achieved through optimization of the conditions under which the crystals are grown, and of the structure of the devices. At shorter wavelengths, however, nitride semiconductor-based laser diodes have only been achieved in the UV-A region11,12,13,14,15. To the best of our knowledge, the shortest wavelength reported for an AlGaN-based UV edge emitting laser is 326 nm16. Many issues remain to be resolved if the wavelength at which laser diodes can operate is to be decreased.

To realize laser oscillation, the material must exhibit optical gain, an optical resonator must be formed, and carrier injection must be realized. The key characteristics of AlGaN materials are their high optical gain and ability to form optical resonators. However, the development of UV laser diodes is being held back by the current lack of injection technologies that allow both a high hole concentration and low resistivity p-type AlGaN with a high AlN molar fraction to be realized17. In the case of AlGaN with a high AlN molar fraction, laser oscillation can be initiated using optical pumping18, 19. UV lasers with controllable wavelengths should therefore become possible if this problem can be resolved.

A promising approach to addressing this is the use of electron beam excitation. Existing nitride semiconductor-based lasers have been designed to achieve population inversion of the carrier and to oscillate in response to current injection. However, as noted above, it is difficult to achieve wavelengths shorter than 326 nm when using this method. However, the use of electron beam excitation renders the conductivity control of nitride semiconductors unnecessary. This should allow the wavelengths available for use with nitride semiconductor-based lasers to be extended deep into the UV region.

A number of studies have reported electron beam excitation of nitride semiconductors20,21,22. Both spontaneous UV light emission and visible laser light oscillation have been realized. However, electron beam excitation of laser oscillation in the UV region using nitride semiconductors has not yet been reported.

In this study, we investigated electron beam laser excitation in the UV region, using a nitride semiconductor device with a GaN/AlGaN multiquantum well (MQW) active layer.

Methods

The sample used in the study was grown using metalorganic vapor-phase epitaxy. Figure 1(a) shows a schematic of the laser structure, which comprised a separate confinement heterostructure with a GaN/AlGaN MQW active layer grown on a c-plane freestanding GaN substrate. The optical confinement factor of this structure was about 6%. Trimethylaluminum, trimethylgallium, triethylgallium, and ammonia were used as the source gases. The stack comprised, in order, a 500-nm-thick homoepitaxial GaN layer, a 500-nm-thick Al0.15Ga0.85N cladding layer, a 100-nm-thick Al0.07Ga0.93N optical guide layer, 10 pairs of GaN (3 nm) and Al0.07Ga0.93N (12 nm) as the MQW active layer, a 100-nm-thick Al0.07Ga0.93N optical guide layer, and a 100-nm-thick Al0.07Ga0.93N cladding layer. The laser cavity was formed by a combination of Cl2 inductively coupled plasma etching and wet etching using the tetramethylammonium hydroxide aqua (~25 at%) method23. The laser sample had a cavity length of approximately 50 μm. Because the cavity length was short, no facet coating was applied.

Figure 1
figure 1

(a) Schematic view of the sample structure. (b) Exterior photograph of the electron beam excitation and measurement systems.

Figure 1(b) gives a schematic view of the electron beam excitation and measurement systems. The laser sample was mounted on a cooling stage fitted with a cryocooler. The sample was mounted using Ag paste, and the chamber was then evacuated to approximately 1 × 10−5 Pa using a turbo molecular pump. An LaB6 electron beam gun was used as the excitation source, and the luminescence from the sample was determined from the acceleration voltage of the electron beam.

Before the experiment was run, a Monte Carlo simulation was conducted to identify the trajectory of the electron beam when the acceleration voltage was changed20. A CASINO ver.2 simulator was used. Figure 2 show the trajectory of the electron beam at acceleration voltages ranging from 5 to 25 kV, in increments of 5 kV. The blue and red lines in the figure show the trajectories of the primary and reflection electrons, respectively. Based on the results, the acceleration voltage was set at 15 kV. The electron beam current was measured using a Faraday cup and was varied across the range 0.02 to 5 mA. The portion of the sample irradiated by the electron beam was evaluated using a micro CCD image sensor. The excitation spot sizes of the electron beam were controlled to approximately 170 μm φ. The electron beam was set in pulse irradiation mode (pulse width 20 ns, cyclic frequency 3 MHz, and duty 6%). The sample was analyzed after cooling to approximately 107 K. The luminescence light emission from the sample edge was passed through a viewport and two collecting mirrors, and detected using a spectrometer with a CCD array (ANDOR SR-750-A-R and DU420A-UE; wavelength resolution ~0.04 nm) after passing through an optical fiber. The sample stage temperature was monitored using a thermocouple.

Figure 2
figure 2

Trajectory of electron beam with accelerating voltage.

Results and Discussion

Figure 3(a) shows the luminescence spectra from the GaN(3 nm)/AlGaN(12 nm) MQW active layer after excitation by electron beams with power levels of 180, 240, and 280 kW/cm2. Figure 3(b) presents the integrated light intensity after deconvolution of the background level as a function of the excitation electron power density. At an electron beam power of 180 kW/cm2, spontaneous emission at 351 nm was observed. When the power was increased to 240 kW/cm2, a sharp emission was observed. The plot of the integrated light intensity as a function of the excitation electron power density clearly confirmed the presence of a threshold power density (P th) at approximately 230 kW/cm2. Above this threshold, the integrated light intensity increased linearly. Figure 3(c) shows the lasing spectrum passed by a polarizer (THORLABS GLB10), with a polarization feature at 280 kW/cm2. The lasing spectra and polarization feature suggested that the sample exhibited laser emission, stimulated by TE-polarization. Lasing emission was also observed at a wavelength of approximately 353 nm when the excitation power density was 280 kW/cm2.

Figure 3
figure 3

(a) Luminescence spectra from the GaN/AlGaN MQW active layer with excitation electron beam power levels of 180, 240, and 280 kW/cm2. (b) Integrated light intensity of the emission spectra as a function of the excitation electron power density. (c) Laser emission spectra of the TE mode and TM mode with excitation electron beam power level of 280 kW/cm2.

We next compared the use of optical pumping and electron beam pumping. Figure 4 shows the excitation power dependence of the integrated light intensity by optical pumping using an Nd:YAG 4th (λ = 266 nm) laser. The GaN/AlGaN MQW active layer produced laser oscillation at approximately 55 kW/cm2 when excited by the Nd:YAG laser. As noted above, the threshold power density (P th) was 230 kW/cm2 when using electron beam excitation. Laser oscillation by electron beam excitation was found to require four times the injection power of optical excitation. Since the same excitation carrier concentration is required for laser oscillation, this suggests that the generation rate of electron-hole pairs by electron beam excitation is approximately one quarter that of light excitation.

Figure 4
figure 4

Integrated light intensity of the emission spectra as a function of the excitation optical power density.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this study investigated electron beam laser excitation in the UV region, using a GaN/AlGaN MQW active layer. The wavelength was found to be approximately 353 nm and the threshold power density 230 kW/cm2. We also compared the use of optical pumping and electron beam pumping. The rate of generation of electron-hole pairs when using electron beam excitation was approximately one quarter that of light excitation. This technology provides a means of addressing the problems associated with the current generation of injection systems. It offers a potential solution to the development of AlGaN-based UV lasers, and should contribute to the expansion of nitride semiconductor UV photonics.

References

  1. Amano, H., Kito, M., Hiramatsu, K. & Akasaki, I. P-Type Conduction in Mg-Doped GaN Treated with Low-Energy Electron Beam irradiation (LEEBI). Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 28, L2112–L2114, doi:10.1143/JJAP.28.L2112 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Koike, M. et al. GaInN/GaN multiple quantum wells green LEDs. SPIE 3002, 36 (1997).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Nakamura, S., Senoh, M., Iwasa, N. & Nagahama, S. High-Brightness InGaN Blue, Green and Yellow Light-Emitting Diodes with Quantum Well Structeres. Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 34, L797–L799, doi:10.1143/JJAP.34.L797 (1995).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Amano, H., Sawaki, N., Akasaki, I. & Toyoda, Y. Metalorganic vapor phase epitaxial growth of a high quality GaN film using an AlN buffer layer. Appl. Phys. Lett. 48, 353–355, doi:10.1063/1.96549 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Akasaki, I. & Amano, H. Breakthroughs in Improving Crystal Quality of GaN and Invention of the p-n Junction Blue-Light-Emitting Diode. Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 45, 9001–9010, doi:10.1143/JJAP.45.9001 (2006).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Akasaki, I. et al. Stimulated Emission by Current Injection from an AlGaN/GaN/GaInN Quantum Well Device. Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 34, L1517, doi:10.7567/JJAP.34.L1517 (1995).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Nakamura, S. et al. InGaN-Based Multi-Quantum-Well-Structure Laser Diodes. Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 35, L74–L76, doi:10.1143/JJAP.35.L74 (1996).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Nakamura, S. et al. Blue inGaN-based laser diodes with an emission wavelength of 450 nm. Appl. Phys. Lett. 76, 22–24, doi:10.1063/1.125643 (2000).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Yoshizumi, Y. et al. Continuous-Wave Operation of 520 nm Green inGaN-Based Laser Diodes on Semi-Polar {2021} GaN Substrates. Appl. Phys. Express 2, 092101, doi:10.1143/APEX.2.092101 (2009).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Miyoshi, T. et al. 510–515 nm InGaN-Based Green Laser Diodes on c-Plane GAN Substrate. Appl. Phys. Express 2, 062201, doi:10.1143/APEX.2.062201 (2009).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Kneissl, M., Treat, D. W., Teepe, M., Miyashita, N. & Johnson, N. M. Ultraviolet AlGaN multiple-quantum-well laser diodes. Appl. Phys. Lett. 82, 4441–4443, doi:10.1063/1.1585135 (2003).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Iida, K. et al. 350.9 nm UV Laser Diode Grown on Low-Dislocation-Density AlGaN. J. Appl. Phys. 43, L499–L500, doi:10.1143/JJAP.43.L499 (2004).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Tsuzuki, H. et al. Novel UV devices on high-quality AlGaN using grooved underlying layer. J. Cryst. Growth 311, 2860–2863, doi:10.1016/j.jcrysgro.2009.01.031 (2009).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Yoshida, H., Yamashita, Y., Kuwabara, M. & Kan, H. A 342-nm ultraviolet AlGaN multiple-quantum-well laser diode. Nature Photonics 2, 551–7, doi:10.1038/nphoton.2008.135 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Yoshida, H., Yamashita, Y., Kuwabara, M. & Kan, H. Demonstration of an ultraviolet 336 nm AlGaN multiple-quantum-well laser diode. Appl. Phys. Lett. 93, 241106–7, doi:10.1063/1.3050539 (2008).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Okawara, S., Aoki, Y., Yamashita, Y. & Yoshida, H. Ultraviolet AlGaN multiple-quantum-well laser diodes with emission wavelengths below 330 nm. The 6th International Symposium on Growth of III–Nitrides (ISGN-6), Hamamatsu. Act City Hamamatsu: The Japanese Association for Crystal Growth. (2015, November 8–13).

  17. Nagamatsu, K. et al. Activation energy of Mg in Al0.25Ga0.75 and Al0.5Ga0.5N. Phys. Status Solidi C 6, S437–S439, doi:10.1002/pssc.v6.5s2 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Xie, J. et al. Lasing and longitudinal cavity modes in photo-pumped deep ultraviolet AlGaN heterostructures. Appl. Phys. Lett. 102, 171102, doi:10.1063/1.4803689 (2013).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Takano, T., Narita, Y., Horiuchi, A. & Kawanishi, H. Room-temperature deep-ultraviolet lasing at 241.5 nm of AlGaN multiple-quantum-well laser. Appl. Phys. Lett. 84, 3567–3569, doi:10.1063/1.1737061 (2004).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Shimahara, Y. et al. Fabrication of Deep-Ultraviolet-Light-Source Tube Using Si-Doped AlGaN. Appl. Phys. Express 4, 042103, doi:10.1143/APEX.4.042103 (2011).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Oto, T., Banal, R. G., Kataoka, K., Funato, M. & Kawakami, Y. 100 mW deep-ultraviolet emission from aluminium-nitride-based quantum wells pumped by an electron beam. Nature Photonics 4, 767–770, doi:10.1038/nphoton.2010.220 (2010).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kozlovsky, V. et al. Electron Beam Pumped MQW InGaN/GaN Laser. MRS internet journal 2, 38, doi:10.1557/S1092578300001642 (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  23. Kodama, M. et al. GaN-Based Trench Gate Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field-Effect transistor Fabricated with Novel Wet Etching. Appl. Phys. Express 1, 021104, doi:10.1143/APEX.1.021104 (2008).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study was partially supported by the MEXT Program for the Strategic Research Foundation at Private Universities (2012–2016), MEXT Private University Research Branding Project (2016–2020), JSPS KAKENHI for Scientific Research A (No. 15H02019), JSPS KAKENHI for Scientific Research B (No. 26286045), JSPS KAKENHI for Innovative Areas (No. 16H06416), and JST CREST (JPMJCR16N2).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

T.H. and M.I. designed the experiments. T.S. grew AlGaN-based epilayers and performed PL experiments. T.H. and N.N. carried out device fabrication. T.H. performed the electron beam simulation. T.H., Y.K. and S.I. performed electron beam excitation experiments. T.M. contributed to the electron beam simulation and electron beam excitation experiments. T.H. and S.I. wrote the manuscript and M.I. polished the manuscript. M.I., T.T., S.K. and I.A. supervised the overall study. All authors read and reviewed the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Takafumi Hayashi.

Ethics declarations

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

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

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hayashi, T., Kawase, Y., Nagata, N. et al. Demonstration of electron beam laser excitation in the UV range using a GaN/AlGaN multiquantum well active layer. Sci Rep 7, 2944 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-03151-8

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-03151-8

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing