In this study, the fundamental properties of AlGaN/GaN based High Electron Mobility Transistors (HEMTs) have been investigated in order to optimize their performance in radiation harsh environment. AlGaN/GaN HEMTs were irradiated with 60Co gamma-rays to doses up to 1000 Gy, and the effects of irradiation on the devices' transport and optical properties were analyzed. Understanding the radiation affects in HEMTs devices, on carrier transport, recombination rates and traps creation play a significant role in development and design of radiation resistant semiconductor components for different applications. Electrical testing combined with temperature dependent Electron Beam Induced Current (EBIC) that we used in our investigations, provided critical information on defects induced in the material because of gamma-irradiation. It was shown that low dose (below ~250 Gy) and high doses (above ~250 Gy) of gamma-irradiation affects the AlGaN/GaN HEMTs due to different mechanisms. For low doses of gamma-irradiation, the improvement in minority carrier diffusion length is likely associated with the irradiation-induced growing lifetime of the non-equilibrium carriers. However, with the increased dose of irradiation (above ~ 250 Gy), the concentration of point defects, such as nitrogen vacancies, as well as the complexes involving native defects increases which results in the non-equilibrium carrier scattering. The impact of defect scattering is more pronounced at higher radiation, which leads to the degradation in the mobility and therefore the diffusion length. In addition for each device under investigation, the temperature dependent minority carrier diffusion length measurements were carried out. These measurements allowed the extraction of the activation energy for the temperature-induced enhancement of the minority carrier transport, which (activation energy) bears a signature of defect levels involved the carrier recombination process. Comparing the activation energy before and after gamma-irradiation identified the radiation-induced defect levels and their dependences. To complement EBIC measurements, spatially resolved Cathodoluminescence (CL) measurements were carried out at variable temperatures. Similar to the EBIC measurements, CL probing before and after the gamma-irradiation allowed the identification of possible defect levels generated as a result of gamma-bombardment. The observed decrease in the CL peak intensity after gamma-irradiation provides the direct evidence of the decrease in the number of recombination events. Based on the findings, the decay in the near-band-edge intensity after low-dose of gamma-irradiation (below ~250 Gy) was explained as a consequence of increased non-equilibrium carrier lifetime. For high doses (above ~250 Gy), decay in the CL intensity was observed to be related to the reduction in the mobility of charge carriers. The results of EBIC are correlated with the CL measurements in order to demonstrate that same underlying process is responsible for the changes induced by the gamma-irradiation. DC current-voltage measurements were also conducted on the transistors to assess the impact of gamma-irradiation on transfer, gate and drain characteristics. Exposure of AlGaN/GaN HEMTs to high dose of 60Co gamma-irradiation (above ~ 250 Gy) resulted in significant device degradation. Gamma-rays doses up to 1000 Gy are shown to result in positive shift in threshold voltage, a reduction in the drain current and transconductance due to increased trapping of carriers and dispersion of charge. In addition, a significant increase in the gate leakage current was observed in both forward and reverse directions after irradiation. Post-irradiation annealing at relatively low temperature was shown to restore the minority carrier transport as well as the electrical characteristics of the devices. The level of recovery of gamma-irradiated devices after annealing treatment depends on the dose of the irradiation. The devices that show most recovery for a particular annealing temperature are those exposed to the low doses of gamma-irradiation, while those exposed to the highest doses results in no recovery of performance. The latter fact indicates that a higher device annealing temperature is needed for larger doses of gamma-irradiation.


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Graduation Date





Flitsiyan, Elena


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program










Release Date

August 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

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Physics Commons