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Strain and defects in Si-doped (Al)GaN epitaxial layers

: Forghani, K.; Schade, L.; Schwarz, U.T.; Lipski, F.; Klein, O.; Kaiser, U.; Scholz, F.


Journal of applied physics 112 (2012), Nr.9, Art. 093102, 9 S.
ISSN: 0021-8979
ISSN: 1089-7550
Fraunhofer IAF ()

Si is the most common dopant in (Al)GaN based devices acting as a donor. It has been observed that Si induces tensile strain in (Al)GaN films, which leads to an increasing tendency for cracking of such films with the increase of Si content and/or the increase of Al content. Based on x-ray investigations, the Si-doped films have a larger in-plane lattice constant than their undoped buffer layers, indicating involvement of a mechanism other than the change of lattice constants expected from an alloying effect. In this work, we present a model about Si dislocation interaction while debating other proposed models in the literature. According to our model, Si atoms are attracted to the strain dipole of edge-type dislocations in (Al)GaN films. It is expected that Si is more incorporated on that side of the dislocation, which is under compression leading to the formation of off-balanced dipoles with reduced compressive component. In response to such off-balanced dipoles-appearing as tensile dominant strain dipoles-the dislocation lines climb in order to accommodate the excess tensile strain. However, this dislocation climb mechanism is hindered by forces exerted by vacancies created due to the climb process. Accordingly, we have observed a lower strain level in our Si doped layers when they contain fewer dislocations. These findings were further supported by x-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and micro-photoluminescence investigations.