Growth of single-crystal silicon carbide on silicon substrate (SiC-on-Si) is seen as a very attractive approach to combine the excellent properties of SiC with the low cost, large wafer size and well-developed micro-machining of Si wafers. Despite their large lattice and thermal expansion mismatches, both around 20%, uniform and crack-free single-crystal SiC-on-Si templates can be obtained with a relatively good crystal quality1. Consequently, SiC-on-Si pseudo-substrate are now investigated for a broad range of applications including photonic, gallium nitride based (GaN) devices on Si, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and graphene epitaxial growth.
We propose and demonstrate for the first time the use of the SiC-on-Si technology to fabricate a vertically conductive single-crystal distributed Bragg reflector (DBR) on Si substrate. Such SiC-based DBRs enable the monolithic integration of efficient GaN-based optoelectronic devices on large Si wafers. SiC is indeed commonly used as growth substrate for commercial high power GaN devices as it has the smallest lattice mismatch amongst all foreign substrates for the hetero-epitaxy of III-nitride compound semiconductors, typically less than 4%. However, as SiC substrates are smaller and much more expensive than Si substrates, the SiC-on-Si technology is economically very attractive for the monolithic integration of GaN devices on large Si wafers. Several demonstrations of GaN light emitting diodes (GaN-LEDs) and GaN power devices grown on SiC-on-Si substrates have already been reported4,5. By using Si as a platform technology, GaN devices can also be directly integrated with CMOS devices and depreciated CMOS factory plants can be utilized, which lead to substantial cost saving in capital equipment investment and device fabrication costs. Thanks to its high electrical and thermal conductivities, combined with a large refractive index (RI) and a low absorption in the visible spectrum, SiC is also a material of choice for the fabrication of single-crystal DBRs on Si operating in the visible or the infrared (IR) spectra. Light extraction (or absorption) efficiency of an optoelectronic device can be greatly improved with a DBR when used as a rear mirror sandwiched between the Si substrate and the device structure. It is therefore very attractive to develop a SiC-based DBR for GaN-LEDs on Si. Another advantage of monolithic DBR-LEDs on Si would be to greatly simplify the device processing, and thus to reduce the manufacturing cost, compared to the standard GaN-LED on Si technology. Indeed, because of the strong optical absorption occurring in the Si substrate, manufacturing of high brightness (HB) LEDs on Si currently requires the removal of the Si growth substrate followed by the transfer of the III-N epilayers to a new high reflective carrier. This process is particularly difficult and expensive to apply on large substrates as it requires low wafer bowing and often expensive gold-based bonding layer, hence lowers the process yield and induces a high manufacturing cost.
A DBR consists of multiple transparent layers with alternative high and low RI, and with each layer thickness carefully chosen to create an optical resonance effect at the desired wavelength. DBRs are fundamental for the fabrication of many photonic and optoelectronic devices using optical resonance effects in a microcavity. Such devices include Fabry-Perot filters and modulators, resonant cavity (RC)-LEDs and vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs). Monolithic growth of a DBR for GaN devices on Si requires the use of transparent materials which are compatible with both Si and III-N semiconductors, strongly limiting the number of suitable candidates. Most of the demonstrations of DBR for GaN-devices (mainly targeting LED applications) on Si have been made using only III-N semiconductors as the constitutive layer. Reflectance as high as 95% was achieved, but as many as 20 pairs AlInN/GaN were needed because of the small RI contrast achievable between those III-N semiconductor layers. Growth of such thick stack of layers implies also the use of complex stress management during the heteroepitaxy on Si because of the large lattice mismatch, making it challenging to grow crack-free DBR-LEDs. So far, the only successful report of such DBR-LED on Si was achieved only by using DBRs with a small number of pairs and thus with a relatively low reflectance. Another drawback with III-N DBRs comes from their weak thermal and electrical conductivities which strongly limit their attractiveness for HB-LEDs. Rare-earth-oxides based DBRs paired with Si thin-films have also been investigated as the high RI contrast allows high reflectivity and large stopband in the visible with just few pairs. However, their detrimental thermal and electrical properties strongly limit their potential for HB-LEDs as well.
In this paper, vertically conductive DBRs, using single-crystal SiC thin-films paired with doped or undoped Al(Ga)N layers, were heteroepitaxially grown on large Si substrates. High uniformity over 100 mm Si wafers, with a typical average peak reflectance of ~55% centered in the blue wavelengths and a stopband of 100 nm, is demonstrated using 1.5 DBR pairs. Furthermore, the DBR structure using Si-doped AlGaN shows very good vertical electrical conductivity, with current density as high as 70 A/cm2 at 1.5 V, without visible degradation of the optical performance compared to its non-conductive counterpart. Such DBR structures with high electrical conductivity of materials with high thermal conductivity are ideal candidates for the monolithic integration of SiC-based and GaN-based high power optoelectronic devices on Si.
Advantages of the SiC-on-Si pseudo-substrate
The DBR structures are composed of a half-wavelength (λ/2)-thick SiC layer, followed by 1 pair of quarter-wavelength (λ/4)-thick AlN/SiC layers (DBR A) or AlGaN/SiC layers (DBR B) as illustrated in Fig. 1. Starting the DBR growth with a SiC layer, instead of directly with the III-N layer, enables the circumvention of several drawbacks of the III-N growth on Si. Firstly, a III-N deposition on SiC should yield an higher crystalline quality than directly on Si thanks to a lower lattice mismatch of 3% compared to 17%. In addition, stress management for the whole heteroepitaxy should also be easier to engineer due to the lower lattice and thermal mismatch. Secondly, an important advantage of the SiC template is to protect the Si substrate from the “melt-back etching” that would otherwise occur due to the formation of a low temperature eutectic between Ga and Si and thus eliminating the need of the usual protective AlN buffer layer with its detrimental current blocking effect. Indeed, AlN is not only intrinsically highly resistive but also induces a large band discontinuity at the Si interface strongly impairing the vertical current flow19. In other words, by starting the DBR growth with a highly conductive SiC layer, it can both protect the Si substrate from reacting with Ga and provide a high electrical conductivity for vertical current injection. Vertical current injection is important because it is the most efficient current scheme for optoelectronic devices such as GaN-LEDs. As SiC has a higher refractive index than Al(Ga)N, the SiC template thickness must be equal to λ/2 to avoid an anti-reflection effect and thus acts as an absentee layer. We emphasize that because of the temperature limitation imposed by the melting point of Si at 1420 °C, only the cubic crystalline structure of SiC, called cubic polytype (or 3C-SiC), can be grown on Si with the LPCVD technique as used in this work1.
Design of a DBR structure requires the knowledge of the optical constants of each constitutive layer. Figure 2(a,b) show the dispersion, deduced from spectroscopy ellipsometry, of RI and of the coefficient of absorption (α) respectively, for the 3C-SiC and nitride thin-films. Data for each material were averaged from fitting made on several test samples and then used to optimise the design of the SiC-based DBRs. AlN and AlGaN layers gave very similar ellipsometric results with no absorption over the investigated spectral range and the dispersion of RI is similar to reported values for AlN thick-films grown on bulk SiC, indicating that a good crystal quality nitride layer has been grown on the SiC-on-Si pseudo-substrate. For convenience, the same RI dispersion for both nitride materials deposited on the SiC template was chosen. 3C-SiC layers grown on Si or on a nitride layer gave similar dispersion of RI, with values in good agreement with reported data for 3C-SiC material. As a result, between 3C-SiC and Al(Ga)N, one obtains a large RI contrast of 0.65 in the blue spectrum which is already 2 to 3 times larger compared to values obtained with the standard pure nitride-based DBRs. Analysis of the optical absorption shows a strong difference between 3C-SiC layers grown on Si and Al(Ga)N. For SiC deposited on Si, there is a significant and increasing residual absorption above 500 nm, whereas SiC deposited on Al(Ga)N show no detectable absorption above 550 nm. As 3C-SiC has an indirect bandgap of ~2.4 eV, any absorption below this energy (i.e. above 520 nm) is induced by sub-bandgap traps created by the crystalline defects. Because of the large lattice mismatch, SiC layers grown on Si have large density of defects, up to 1010 cm−3, leading to the residual absorption detected on the SiC on Si layers1. On the other hand, the lower lattice mismatch between SiC and III-N semiconductors is expected to provide much better crystalline quality resulting in a lower residual absorption as seen in our SiC grown on nitride layer.
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