Tech Briefs

Dot-in-Well Quantum-Dot Infrared Photodetectors

The goal is to develop high-performance radiation-hard QDIPs for focal plane arrays.

Dot-in-well (DWELL) quantum-dot infrared photodetectors (QDIPs) [DWELL-QDIPs] are subjects of research as potentially superior alternatives to prior QDIPs. Heretofore, there has not existed a reliable method for fabricating quantum dots (QDs) having precise, repeatable dimensions. This lack has constituted an obstacle to the development of uniform, high- performance, wavelength- tailorable QDIPs and of focal-plane arrays (FPAs) of such QDIPs. However, techniques for fabricating quantum-well infrared photodetectors (QWIPs) having multiple-quantum- well (MQW) structures are now well established. In the present research on DWELL-QDIPs, the arts of fabrication of QDs and QWIPs are combined with a view toward overcoming the deficiencies of prior QDIPs. The longer-term goal is to develop focal-plane arrays of radiation- hard, highly uniform arrays of QDIPs that would exhibit high performance at wavelengths from 8 to 15 μm when operated at temperatures between 150 and 200 K.

Quantum Dots Are Embedded in Quantum Wells in a multiple-quantum-well structure. The multiplicityof wells makes it possible to attain a high areal density of QDs for high quantum efficiency.
Increasing quantum efficiency is the key to the development of competitive QDIP-based FPAs. Quantum efficiency can be increased by increasing the density of QDs and by enhancing infrared absorption in QD-containing material. QDIPs demonstrated thus far have consisted, variously, of InAs islands on GaAs or InAs islands in InGaAs/GaAs wells. These QDIPs have exhibited low quantum efficiencies because the numbers of QD layers (and, hence, the areal densities of QDs) have been small — typically five layers in each QDIP. The number of QD layers in such a device must be thus limited to prevent the aggregation of strain in the InAs/InGaAs/GaAs non-lattice- matched material system.

The approach being followed in the DWELL-QDIP research is to embed InGaAs QDs in GaAs/AlGaAs multiquantum- well (MQW) structures (see figure). This material system can accommodate a large number of QD layers without excessive lattice-mismatch strain and the associated degradation of photodetection properties. Hence, this material system is expected to enable achievement of greater densities of QDs and correspondingly greater quantum efficiencies. The host GaAs/AlGaAs MQW structures are highly compatible with mature fabrication processes that are now used routinely in making QWIP FPAs. The hybrid InGaAs-dot/GaAs/AlGaAs-well system also offers design advantages in that the effects of variability of dot size can be partly compensated by engineering quantum-well sizes, which can be controlled precisely.