Crossed diffraction gratings and random reflectors have been proposed as means to increase the quantum efficiencies of InGaAs/InP positive/intrinsic/ negative (PIN) diodes designed to operate as near-infrared photodetectors. The proposal is meant especially to apply to focal-plane imaging arrays of such photodetectors to be used for near-infrared imaging. A further increase in quantum efficiency near the short-wavelength limit of the near-infrared spectrum of such a photodetector array could be effected by removing the InP substrate of the array.

Crossed Diffraction Gratings or a Random Reflector would be fabricated on the back (here, the top) face of a PIN photodiode in each pixel of an imaging array of such photodiodes.

The use of crossed diffraction gratings and random reflectors as optical devices for increasing the quantum efficiencies of quantum-well infrared photodetectors (QWIPs) was discussed in several prior NASA Tech Briefs articles. While the optical effects of crossed gratings and random reflectors as applied to PIN photodiodes would be similar to those of crossed gratings and random reflectors as applied to QWIPs, the physical mechanisms by which these optical effects would enhance efficiency differ between the PIN-photodiode and QWIP cases:

  • In a QWIP, the multiple-quantum-well layers are typically oriented parallel to the focal plane and therefore perpendicular or nearly perpendicular to the direction of incidence of infrared light. By virtue of the applicable quantum selection rules, light polarized parallel to the focal plane (as normally incident light is) cannot excite charge carriers and, hence, cannot be detected. A pair of crossed gratings or a random reflector scatters normally or nearly normally incident light so that a significant portion of it attains a component of polarization normal to the focal plane and, hence, can excite charge carriers.
  • A pair of crossed gratings or a random reflector on a PIN photodiode would also scatter light into directions away from the perpendicular to the focal plane. However, in this case, the reason for redirecting light away from the perpendicular is to increase the length of the optical path through the detector to increase the probability of absorption of photons and thereby increase the resulting excitation of charge carriers.

A pair of crossed gratings or a random reflector according to the proposal would be fabricated as an integral part of photodetector structure on the face opposite the focal plane (see figure). In the presence of crossed gratings, light would make four passes through the device before departing. In the presence of a random reflector, a significant portion of the light would make more than four passes: After each bounce, light would be scattered at a different random angle, and would have a chance to escape only when it was reflected, relative to the normal, at an angle less than the critical angle for total internal reflection. Given the indices of refraction of the photodiode materials, this angle would be about 17°. This amounts to a very narrow cone for escape of trapped light.

This work was done by Sarath Gunapala, Sumith Bandara, John Liu, and David Ting of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free online at under the Electronics/Computers category.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Innovative Technology Assets Management
Mail Stop 202-233
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(818) 354-2240
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Refer to NPO-30509, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Gratings and Random Reflectors for Near-Infrared PIN Diodes

(reference NPO-30509) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the February, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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