Hot-Electron Gallium Nitride Two Dimensional Electron Gas Nano-bolometers For Advanced THz Spectroscopy
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Two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG) in semiconductor heterostructures was identified as a promising medium for hot-electron bolometers (HEB) in the early 90s. Up until now all research based on 2DEG HEBs is done using high mobility AlGaAs/GaAs heterostructures. These systems have demonstrated very good performance, but only in the sub terahertz (THz) range. However, above ∼0.5 THz the performance of AlGaAs/GaAs detectors drastically deteriorates. It is currently understood, that detectors fabricated from standard AlGaAs/GaAs heterostructures do not allow for reasonable coupling to THz radiation while maintaining high conversion efficiency. In this work we have developed 2DEG HEBs based on disordered Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductor, that operate at frequencies beyond 1THz at room temperature. We observe strong free carrier absorption at THz frequencies in our disordered 2DEG film due to Drude absorption. We show the design and fabrication procedures of novel micro-bolometers having ultra-low heat capacities. In this work the mechanism of 2DEG response to THz radiation is clearly identified as bolometric effect through our direct detection measurements. With optimal doping and detector geometry, impedances of 10–100 Ω have been achieved, which allow integration of these devices with standard THz antennas. We also demonstrate performance of the antennas used in this work in effectively coupling THz radiation to the micro-bolometers through polarization dependence and far field measurements. Finally heterodyne mixing due to hot electrons in the 2DEG micro-bolometer has been performed at sub terahertz frequencies and a mixing bandwidth greater than 3GHz has been achieved. This indicates that the characteristic cooling time in our detectors is fast, less than 50ps. Due to the ultra-low heat capacity; these detectors can be used in a heterodyne system with a quantum cascade laser (QCL) as a local oscillator (LO) which typically provides output powers in the micro watt range. Our studies suggest that such room temperature detectors from GaN semiconductor, with reasonable bandwidth, low LO power requirements and high sensitivity have numerous applications, ranging from precise identification of complex molecules, environmental monitoring of critical substances, remote detection of various pollutants in the atmosphere, and noninvasive medical imaging as well as a variety of applications for defense and homeland security.