Gate Leakage in AlGaN/GaN Heterostructure Field Effect Transistors and Its Suppression by Novel Al2O3 Insulated Gate


IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Electronics   Vol.E86-C   No.10   pp.2043-2050
Publication Date: 2003/10/01
Online ISSN: 
Print ISSN: 0916-8516
Type of Manuscript: Special Section PAPER (Special Issue on Heterostructure Microelectronics with TWHM2003)
GaN,  AlGaN,  leakage current,  surface states,  passivation,  

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In order to clarify the mechanism of gate leakage in AlGaN/GaN heterostructure field effect transistors (HFETs), temperature (T)-dependent current-voltage (I-V) characteristics of Ni/n-AlGaN Schottky contact were measured in detail. Large deviations from the thermionic emission transport were observed in I-V-T behavior with anomalously large reverse leakage currents. An analysis based on the thin surface barrier (TSB) model showed that the nitrogen-vacancy-related near-surface donors play a dominant role in the leakage through the AlGaN Schottky interface. As a practical scheme for suppressing the leakage currents, use of an insulated gate (IG) structure was investigated. As the insulator, Al2O3 was selected, and an Al2O3 IG structure was formed on the AlGaN/GaN heterostructure surface after an ECR-N2 plasma treatment. An in-situ XPS analysis exhibited successful formation of an ultrathin stoichiometric Al2O3 layer which has a large conduction band offset of 2.1 eV at the Al2O3/Al0.3Ga0.7N interface. The fabricated Al2O3 IG HFET achieved pronounced reduction of gate leakage, resulting in the good gate control of drain currents up to VGS = +3 V. The maximum drain saturation current and transconductance were 0.8 A/mm and 120 mS/mm, respectively. No current collapse was observed in the Al2O3 IG-HFETs, indicating a remarkable advantage of the present Al2O3-based insulated gate and passivation structure.