(19)
(11)EP 3 708 699 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
16.09.2020 Bulletin 2020/38

(21)Application number: 20000165.9

(22)Date of filing:  15.02.2013
(51)Int. Cl.: 
C30B 25/18  (2006.01)
H01L 29/267  (2006.01)
C30B 29/40  (2006.01)
H01L 21/02  (2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(62)Application number of the earlier application in accordance with Art. 76 EPC:
13155540.1 / 2767620

(71)Applicant: AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH
74072 Heilbronn (DE)

(72)Inventor:
  • AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH
    74072 Heilbronn (DE)

(74)Representative: Koch Müller Patentanwaltsgesellschaft mbH 
Maaßstraße 32/1
69123 Heidelberg
69123 Heidelberg (DE)

 
Remarks:
This application was filed on 29-04-2020 as a divisional application to the application mentioned under INID code 62.
 


(54)P-D0PING OF GROUP-I I I-NITRIDE BUFFER LATER STRUCTURE ON A HETEROSUBSTRATE


(57) The invention relates to an epitaxial group-III-nitride buffer-layer structure (100) on a heterosubstrate, wherein the buffer-layer structure (100) comprises at least one stress-management layer sequence S including an interlayer structure (530) arranged between and adjacent to a first and a second group-III-nitride layer (120, 140), wherein the interlayer structure (530) comprises a group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap than the materials of the first and second group-III-nitride layers (120, 140), and wherein a p-type-dopant-concentration profile drops, starting from at least 1x1018 cm-3, by at least a factor of two in transition from the interlayer structure (530) to the first and second group-III-nitride layers (120, 140).




Description


[0001] The present invention relates to an epitaxial group-III-nitride buffer layer structure on a heterosubstrate. It also relates to a device structure, in particular to a layer structure of a transistor, a field-effect transistor (FET), a high-electron-mobility transistor (HEMT), in particular a normally-on or normally-off HEMT or a metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS)HEMT, a Schottky diode, or a P-I-N structure.

[0002] Most group-III-nitride based device structures, in particular transistor structures used nowadays for radio frequency (RF) or high-voltage (HV) power-conversion devices, are fabricated on a heterosubstrate, this means on a substrate of a material other than a group-III-nitride material, such as a Si, SiC, or Al203 (Sapphire) substrate. The ability to use Si as a heterosubstrate is particularly advantageous because it allows using relatively cheap wafers having large industry-standard diameters, and because it forms the basis for monolithically integrating group-III-nitride devices into silicon-based integrated circuits made by a CMOS or related technology.

[0003] Such epitaxial group-III-nitride layer structures grown on a heterosubstrate, however, require a sophisticated buffer layer structure between the substrate and the active layer(s) in order to manage stress and defects within the crystalline structure.

[0004] In order to control the resistive properties of the buffer layer structure in a group-III-nitride layer structure, Fe doping has been widely used. However, the use of Fe has some disadvantages. More specifically, Fe doping results in an undesired tilt and twist of the crystallite structure, as can be revealed by x-ray diffractometry (XRD). Furthermore, the inventors found that Fe, when provided as a dopant during the growth of the epitaxial layer structure, segregates towards a channel layer, which in operation carries a two-dimensional electron gas, hereinafter also referred to in short as 2DEG. The presence of Fe in the channel layer is detrimental for achieving a desired high electron concentration in the 2DEG. Finally, Fe doping causes an undesired Fe contamination of the reactor used for deposition of the group-III-nitride layer structure. This causes an undesired Fe background doping, typically in concentrations up to about 1017cm-3 in nominally undoped upper HEMT-device layers and on the wafer surface. Since the presence of Fe induces traps for charge carriers, an unintentional Fe doping reduces a dynamical behavior of the on-resistance Ron of group-III-nitride based HEMT devices. Due to the contamination risk, Fe doping is not considered compatible with wafer processing in CMOS processes. This forms an obstacle for an integration of the fabrication of group-III-nitride devices into existing, well-established CMOS process lines on silicon wafers.

[0005] The document US 7,884,393 discloses the use of a homosubstrate in the form of a GaN substrate to achieve an extremely low dislocation density in an epitaxial group-III-nitride layer structure grown on the homosubstrate. The low dislocation density achievable by growth on a homosubstrate makes a carbon concentration in the different layers of the layer structure variable to some degree. By growing on a homosubstrate and controlling a carbon concentration, according to US 7,884,393, the quality of a buffer layer and a channel layer of group-III-nitride field-effect transistors and HEMTs is improved. As an application, US 7,884,393 describes a HEMT structure grown on a GaN substrate, which has single high-resistance buffer layer deposited immediately on the GaN substrate, a single GaN channel layer immediately on the buffer layer, and a single barrier layer immediately on the channel layer. The buffer layer is in different embodiments made of GaN or AlGaN and has a carbon concentration of 4x1017cm-3 or higher. The highest carbon concentration disclosed for the buffer layer in US 7,884,393 is 2x1018cm-3. The adjacent channel layer does not form a part of the buffer layer, but forms an active layer of the HEMT. It is made of either GaN or InGAN and has a carbon concentration of not more than 4x1016cm-3. A lower concentration of carbon in the channel layer is described in US 7,884,393 as desirable for obtaining a high purity and thus a high electron mobility.

[0006] Group-III-nitride buffer layer structures grown on heterosubstrates, however, and in particular silicon, have a much higher dislocation density compared to those grown on a homosubtrate. This high dislocation density can currently not be avoided. Typical dislocation densities achieved in state-of-the-art buffer layer structures on heterosubstrates are in the range of 5x107-5x109cm-2.

[0007] A first aspect of the invention disclosed in the present specification is an epitaxial group-III-nitride buffer layer structure on a heterosubstrate. The buffer layer structure comprises at least one stress-management layer sequence including an interlayer structure arranged between and adjacent to a first and a second group-III-nitride layer, wherein the interlayer structure comprises a group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap than the materials of the first and second group-III-nitride layers, and wherein a p-type dopant concentration profile drops, starting from at least 1x1018 cm-3, by at least a factor of two in transition from the interlayer structure to the first and second group-III-nitride layers.

[0008] The p-type dopant concentration profile matches the hole concentration profile if no compensation effects occur. If compensation effects have to be considered, the p-type dopant concentration is higher than the desired hole concentration. For instance, the p-type dopant concentration may be higher by a factor of 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 than the hole concentration achieved. Thus, in different embodiments, the p-type dopant concentration profile considering compensation effects drops, starting for instance from at least 1x1019 cm- 3 (factor 10), or from 1x1020 cm-3 (factor 100), by at least a factor of two in transition from the interlayer structure to the first and second group-III-nitride layers.

[0009] Suitable p-type dopants are for instance carbon and magnesium.

[0010] The buffer layer structure of the invention is based on the recognition, that group-III nitrides grown on a heterosubstrate are subjected to substantial stress during the manufacturing process. In comparison with a deposition on a homosubstrate, this requires a special stress management in the buffer-layer structure. One stress management measure is including in the buffer layer structure a stress management layer sequence of an interlayer structure that is arranged between and adjacent to a first group-III-nitride layer and a second group-III-nitride layer, which have a smaller band gap than a group-III-nitride interlayer material. However, the provision of this stress management layer sequence implies the risk of a formation of undesired parasitic conductive channels in the buffer layer structure. The invention is based on the further recognition that an incorporation of carbon or magnesium as p-type dopant in the stress management layer sequence with a suitable concentration profile across the stress management layer sequence is effective in avoiding the formation of such parasitic conductive channels in the buffer layer structure. This way, it becomes even possible in some embodiments to avoid any intentional incorporation of iron atoms, which, as described, have been used in the prior art to achieve a highly resistive buffer layer structure.

[0011] The p-type concentration profile of the present invention has a concentration contrast between the interlayer structure on one hand and the first and second group-III-nitride layers on the other hand. Namely, the p-type dopant concentration profile drops, starting from at least 1x1018 cm-3, by at least a factor of two in transition from the interlayer structure to the first and second group-III-nitride layers. Herein the drop in the p-type dopant concentration can either be sudden or continuous. The inventors have recognized in their experiments that a lower contrast or lower concentration values will not be efficient in avoiding parasitic conductive channels in the stress management layer sequence. The inventors are the first to manufacture a group-III-nitride based buffer layer structure with a stress management layer structure that achieves the mentioned high p-type concentration contrast between the interlayer structure and the first and second layers even at dislocation densities in the range of 5x107-5x109cm-2, which are for instance observed when using a silicon substrate as the heterosubstrate. Thus, it is only the combination of the mentioned p-type dopant concentrations and their minimum difference as defined above, which can provide a highly-resistive buffer layer structure for group-III-nitrides on heterosubstrates without having to use transition metal atoms such as iron, which have negative side effects described earlier.

[0012] The high resistivity of the buffer layer structure enables a subsequent manufacture of highly efficient electronic group-III-nitride semiconductor devices based on the buffer stress management layer sequence, such as group-III-nitride-based high-electron mobility transistors or Schottky diodes. Consequently the buffer layer structure according to the first aspect of the invention allows providing a strain-managed buffer layer structure on a heterosubstrate, which due to its high resistivity is particularly suited as a base for highly efficient electronic devices requiring a high resistance of the buffer layer structure. With the buffer layer structures according to the invention high resistivities, which means high breakdown electric field strength of more than 1 MV/cm or even 2 or 3 MV/cm can be reached. By increasing an Al content in the interlayer structure the breakdown electric field strength can be additionally increased.

[0013] In the following, embodiments of the buffer layer structure of the first aspect of the invention will be described.

[0014] In a preferred embodiment of the stress management layer sequence the interlayer structure has a p-type dopant concentration profile which drops in transition from the interlayer structure to the first and second group-III-nitride layer by at least one order of magnitude or even by at least two orders of magnitude. The building of a 2DEG in the buffer stress management layer sequence can be suppressed with higher effectivity the higher the drop in p-type dopant concentration is.

[0015] Preferably the p-type dopant concentration is constant throughout the interlayer structure.

[0016] In a preferable embodiment the first or the second, or the first and the second group-III-nitride layer are only unintentionally doped, this means a measured p-type dopant concentration of not more than 1x1017 /cm3. Higher ranges of p-type dopant concentration of the first or the second, or the first and the second group-III-nitride layer in the preferable range of 1x1018 /cm3 or even 1x1019 /cm3 can be tolerated with corresponding higher p-type dopant concentration in the interlayer structure.

[0017] In one embodiment of the invention the interlayer structure is a single layer and the group-III-nitride interlayer material is of homogeneous composition, which has a larger band gap than the first and second group-III-nitride layers. The concentration of the p-type dopant in the interlayer structure is at least 6x1018 cm-3, a p-type dopant concentration of at least 1x1020 cm-3 is preferred. P-type dopant concentrations of at least 6x1018 cm-3 in a single interlayer have the additional benefit of being able to compensate undesired parasitic oxygen concentrations in the layer. Thus, higher oxygen content in the layer is tolerable, which reduces the fabrication costs of the buffer-layer structure, because complex and expensive measures to reduce or avoid an unwanted oxygen incorporation into the layers during growth can be omitted. But even values of the p-type-dopant concentration of the single interlayer of up to 1x1021 cm-3 are beneficial in this regard.

[0018] In another preferred embodiment the interlayer structure comprises a first group-III-nitride interlayer that is arranged between and adjacent to a second group-III-nitride interlayer and a third group-III-nitride interlayer. The first, second and third group-III-nitride interlayer have a respective homogeneous composition. A band gap of the first group-III-nitride interlayer is larger than band gaps of the second group-III-nitride interlayer and of the third group-III-nitride interlayer. The p-type dopant concentration throughout the interlayer structure is at least 5x1018cm-3. Such an interlayer structure allows the use of a p-type-dopant concentration at a level between 5x1018cm-3 and 1x1019cm-3. The doping level that can be electrically activated is limited. Moderate p-type dopant concentrations in the interlayer structure which are able to eliminate the parasitic 2DEG channels are preferred because a higher p-type doping level can cause undesired process fluctuations. Nevertheless if process fluctuations can be compensated in another way, also higher p-type dopant concentrations are preferred.

[0019] In a variation of this embodiment the material of the first and second group-III-nitride layer is the same as the material of second and third group-III-nitride interlayers and the group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap than the materials of the first and second group-III-nitride layers is the material of the first group-III-nitride interlayer.

[0020] In another preferred embodiment the interlayer structure comprises a first group-III-nitride interlayer that is arranged between and adjacent to a second group-III-nitride interlayer and a third group-III-nitride interlayer and the first group-III-nitride interlayer is compositionally graded. In this embodiment a p-type doping concentration of 1x1018 cm-3 throughout the interlayer structure is already sufficient to avoid the building of a parasitic 2DEG channel.

[0021] By using the described three-layer structure of the interlayer structure and especially a compositionally graded first group-III-nitride interlayer, p-type doping concentrations of 5x1018 cm-3, respectively 1x1018 cm-3 in the first group-III-nitride interlayer are sufficient to compensate undesired parasitic oxygen concentrations in the respective layer.

[0022] In another embodiment, the group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap additionally has a larger oxygen concentration than either the first or the second group-III-nitride layer, or than both the first and the second group-III-nitride layer.

[0023] The first group-III-nitride interlayer is preferably made of AlGaN having an Al mole fraction that increases with increasing distance from the substrate. Such an increase of the Al mole fraction with increasing distance improves the stress management of the buffer layer structure as well as it allows the use of lower p-type dopant concentrations in the interlayer structure.

[0024] A compositional grading of the second group-III-nitride interlayer or the third group-III-nitride interlayer or the second and the third group-III-nitride interlayer is part of another embodiment of the invention. The grading of these layers is especially advantageous in regard of avoiding additional stress due to lattice mismatches between the first group-III-nitride interlayer on one side and the first and second group-III-nitride layer on the other side.

[0025] In another embodiment of the invention the concentration of the p-type dopant is higher in the second and third group-III-nitride interlayers than in the first group-III-nitride interlayer.

[0026] As p-type dopant carbon or magnesium, or a combination of carbon and magnesium are preferred.

[0027] In preferred embodiments, there is no intentional Fe doping throughout the buffer layer structure. This is for instance expressed in an Fe concentration of less than 4x1016cm-3. However, in some embodiments it may still be useful to also include iron in the buffer layer structure. Due to the presence of p-type dopant according to the present invention, iron can be incorporated in the buffer-layer structure in much lower concentrations, compared to prior-art buffer-layer structures.

[0028] In a favorable embodiment of the invention the buffer layer structure comprises at least two stress management layer sequences, wherein a second stress management layer sequence is arranged at a larger distance from the substrate than a first stress management layer sequence and has a second interlayer structure. With additional interlayer structures the stress management of the buffer layer structure on the heterosubstrate and the quality of subsequent active layers can be improved.

[0029] This can be further improved by the use of a second interlayer structure, which differs from the first interlayer structure in at least one of the following: a layer thickness of at least one of the interlayers of the interlayer structure, a p-type dopant concentration in at least one of the interlayers of the interlayer structure, a material composition of at least one of the interlayers of the interlayer structure, and a number of interlayers in the interlayer structure.

[0030] Another preferable embodiment comprises an additional group-III-nitride layer which is deposited on top of the buffer layer structure and wherein the additional layer has a graded p-type dopant concentration, wherein the p-type dopant concentration is higher in a first section of the additional layer adjacent to the buffer layer than in a second section of the additional layer further away from the buffer layer. Favorably the buffer layer structure is grown on a heterosubstrate such as a silicon, a silicon-on-insulator, a silicon carbide substrate, a Diamond or a Ga203-substrate.

[0031] In preferred embodiments, the stress management layer sequence is configured to introduce a compressive stress in buffer layer structure during growth, which fully or at least partially compensates a tensile stress developing after growth during a cooling down of the buffer layer structure from growth temperature to room temperature.

[0032] Preferably, the group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap than the materials of the first and second group-III-nitride layers is a binary, ternary or quaternary first group-III-nitride material that has higher aluminum content than a second group-III-nitride material forming the first and second group-III-nitride layer. AlN, AlGaN, AlInGaN or AlInN are favorable materials forming the group-III-nitride interlayer material. In some embodiments, the layer made of the group-III-nitride interlayer material is a low-temperature layer, that is, it is grown at a lower temperature than the adjacent first and second group-III-nitride layers. Also the use of similar growth temperatures in the inter- layer structure and the first and second group-III-nitride layers can be useful in certain embodiments.

[0033] In order to further improve the stress management and the resistivity, an embodiment of the invention further comprises a buffer stack deposited between the heterosubstrate and the stress management layer sequence, the buffer stack comprising
  1. a) either a compositionally graded AlGaN buffer layer having a Ga fraction increasing with increasing distance from the heterosubstrate,
  2. b) or a superlattice formed by a stack of alternating group-III-nitride layers of two kinds,
wherein the buffer stack has a p-type dopant concentration of at least 1x1018 cm-3.

[0034] In regard of a further improved stress management in combination with high resistivity in the whole buffer layer structure an embodiment of the invention is preferred, which comprises a nucleation layer between the buffer stack and the substrate, wherein the nucleation layer has a p-type dopant concentration of at least 1x1018 cm-3.

[0035] In a further embodiment, the invention relates to a group-III-nitride device on a heterosubstrate, in particular a transistor, FET, a normally-on or a normally-off (MIS)HEMT, Schottky diode, PIN structure, comprising the epitaxial group-III-nitride buffer layer structures according to the first aspect of the invention or one of its embodiments. The buffer layer structures according to the invention are also advantageous for the use in optoelectronic devices such as LEDs or laser diodes. The device performance is substantially improved by including the buffer layer structure of the present invention.

[0036] Preferably the group-III-nitride device comprises an only unintentionally doped channel active group-III-nitride layer, which means a p-type dopant concentration of not more than 1x1017cm-3, preferably lower than 4x1016cm-3. Such a low p-type dopant concentration in the active layer enables highly efficient performance of the group-III-nitride device, where high conductivity is required in the active group-III-nitride layer.

[0037] In another embodiment the group-III-nitride device is a HEMT. Here, the active layer forms a channel layer. The HEMT further comprises a barrier layer on the active layer. A 2DEG can thus form at an interface between the channel layer and the barrier layer. Thin intermediate layers between the channel layer and the active layers may be used, as is known as such in the prior art. Preferably, the HEMT further comprises a cap layer on the barrier layer. The cap layer may comprise one or more p-type dopants. Carbon or magnesium may be used as the p-dopant or as one of the p-type dopants herein as well.

[0038] In a second aspect, the invention relates to a method for fabricating a p-type-doped group-III-nitride buffer layer structure on a heterosubstrate, the method comprising
  • fabricating an epitaxial group-III-nitride buffer layer structure on a heterosubstrate, wherein the buffer layer structure is fabricated as comprising a stress management layer sequence including an interlayer structure arranged between and adjacent to a first and a second group-III-nitride layer, wherein he interlayer structure comprises a group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap than the materials of the first and second group-III-nitride layers, and wherein the stress management layer sequence is fabricated to have a p-type dopant-concentration profile, which drops, starting from at least 1x1018 cm-3, by at least a factor of two in transition from the interlayer structure to the first and second group-III-nitride layers.


[0039] Favorably, metal-organic vapor epitaxy (MOVPE) or metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) is used as a deposition method.

[0040] In a preferred embodiment of the method the layer made of the group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap than the materials of the first and second group-III-nitride layers is deposited at a temperature lower than the temperature at which the first group-III-nitride layer and the second group-III-nitride layer are grown. With this temperature management, growth rate and V/III-ratio a high difference between the p-type dopant concentration in the group-III-nitride interlayer material and in the first or second group-III-nitride layer can be achieved. At the same time, this is advantageous for the stress-management function of the layer sequence.

[0041] In a preferred embodiment of the method before the deposition of the stress management layer sequence a AlN nucleation layer is deposited on the substrate by a vapor phase deposition technique using a hydrogen-free carrier gas, preferably N2, at a temperature between 800 and 1030 °C, followed by a deposition of a buffer stack before depositing the stress management layer sequence by using Tetraethylgallium and Trimethylaluminum as precursors at a temperature between 800 and 1030 °C, wherein the buffer stack comprises
  1. a) either a compositionally graded AlGaN buffer layer having a Ga fraction increasing with increasing distance from the heterosubstrate,
  2. b) or a superlattice formed by a stack of alternating group-III-nitride layers of two kinds. The low temperatures during the growth of the AlN nucleation layer and the buffer stack are advantageous for the incorporation of carbon concentrations of more than 1x1017 cm-3 and lead to a better crystal quality.


[0042] In order to control the p-type dopant concentration in the different layers of the buffer layer structure several growth parameters other than the growth temperature can be controlled and adjusted. Under otherwise constant growth conditions, increasing a flow rate of a nitrogen source used in the preparation of a layer leads to a decreased p-type dopant concentration in the layer. An opposite effect is achieved by a higher flow rate of a gallium precursor. A higher V/III ratio during the growth of a layer also leads to a lower p-type dopant concentration in the layer. A similar effect is achieved by a higher ambient pressure in the reactor and by a lowering the growth rate of a layer. An additional means to control and adjust the p-type dopant concentration is the use of special C-precursors like for example CBr4, CCl4.

[0043] Further embodiments of the invention will be described hereinafter with reference to the drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 shows an embodiment of a buffer layer structure according to the first aspect of the invention;

Fig. 2 shows another embodiment of a buffer layer structure according to the first aspect of the invention;

Fig. 3 shows an embodiment of a group-III-nitride device according to the invention,

Fig. 4 a) shows a concentration diagram for parts of a transistor based on a buffer layer structure according to the invention,

Fig. 4 b) shows a current-voltage characteristic of the transistor of Fig. 4 a),

Fig. 5 shows another embodiment of a buffer layer structure according to the first aspect of the invention,

Fig. 6 shows an aluminum content profile (a)), a hole concentration profile (b)) and band gap profiles at 0 V (c)) of variation 1 of the structure of Fig. 5.

Fig. 7 shows an aluminum content profile (a)), a hole concentration profile (b)) and band gap profiles at 0 V (c)) of variation 2 of the structure of Fig. 5.

Fig. 8 shows an aluminum content profile (a)), a hole concentration profile (b)) and band gap profiles at 300 V (c)) of variation 3 of the structure of Fig. 5.



[0044] Fig. 1 shows an embodiment of a buffer layer structure 100 according to the first aspect of the invention. On a substrate 110, which in the present embodiment is made of silicon or silicon carbide, an intermediate layer may be grown. This intermediate layer is not shown in detail in Fig. 1, but only indicated by a space above the substrate 110. Such intermediate layer, which may contain a sub-layer structure, serves for achieving nucleation and initial lattice adaptation. In some embodiments, however, the intermediate layer may be omitted, and the buffer layer structure grown directly on the substrate. Examples of an intermediate layer in the form of a buffer stack will be described further below.

[0045] The buffer layer structure 100 comprises a stress management layer sequence S. The stress management layer sequence is formed of three group-III-nitride layers 120 to 140, of which a single interlayer 130 is sandwiched between a first group-III-nitride layer 120 and a second group-III-nitride layer 140.

[0046] In this stress management layer sequence S, the first group-III-nitride layer 120 is deposited first. It is made of GaN. In other embodiments, it is made of AlGaN. The thickness of the first group-III-nitride layer 120 is typically between 300 and 2000 nm, for instance 590 nm.

[0047] Directly on the first group-III-nitride layer 120, the single interlayer 130 is deposited. In the present example, it is made of AlGaN. Alternative embodiments use AlN, or AlInN, or AlInGaN.

[0048] The thickness of the single interlayer is typically between 10 and 50 nm. In the present example it is 30 nm.

[0049] Directly on the single interlayer 130, the second group-III-nitride layer 140 is grown. In the present example, it is made of the same material as the first group-III-nitride layer, that is GaN. In other embodiments, it is made of AlGaN. Its thickness is typically between 300 nm and 1.5 µm. In the present example it is 1 µm thick.

[0050] The single interlayer 130 has a carbon concentration of 1x1019cm-3. In contrast, the first group-III-nitride layer and the second group-III-nitride layer have a lower carbon concentration of not more than 1x1018cm-3. In the present example, their carbon concentration is 1x1017cm-3. Due to the different composition of the AlGaN of the single interlayer 130 in comparison with the GaN of the first and second group-III-nitride layers 120 and 140, a difference in lattice constants is achieved, which correlates with a difference in band gap. The difference in lattice constants introduces a stress component that at least partially compensates stress created by the growth on the heterosubstrate. The stress-management layer sequence S made of GaN-AlGaN-GaN is thus able to reduce a stress which occurs in the buffer layer structure and any layers grown on top of it. On the other hand, the stress management layer sequence also introduces a band structure profile that tends to allow the formation of parasitic conductive channels, which may even comprise a 2DEG near the interfaces between the GaN and AlGaN materials. By introducing carbon at the given concentration levels the building of a 2DEG at the interfaces of single interlayer 130 and first and second group-III-nitride layers 120 and 140 is suppressed. Due to its higher carbon concentration, especially the single interlayer layer 130 exhibits also a high resistivity which is needed for the subsequent building of high efficient electronic devices based on such a buffer layer structure.

[0051] Fig. 2 shows another embodiment of a buffer layer structure 200 according to the first aspect of the invention. Compared with the buffer layer structure 100 of Fig. 1, the buffer layer structure 200 comprises a nucleation layer 255 and a superlattice 250 between a second group-III-nitride layer 220 and the substrate 210. The superlattice 250 and the nucleation layer form an example of an intermediate layer. The nucleation layer 255 is an AlN layer. The superlattice 250 in this embodiment is a high temperature AlGaN / low temperature AlGaN superlattice with a thickness of 100 nm. The nominal composition of the high- and low-temperature AlGaN layers is identical. The nucleation layer 255 and the superlattice 250 further improve the stress management of the buffer layer structure 200. The nucleation layer 255 and the superlattice 250 have a carbon concentration of 5x1018 cm- 3 in this example, which improves the resistivity of the buffer layer structure. Other favorable embodiments of the superlattice are AlGaN/GaN or AlN/GaN superlattices.

[0052] The use of several first group-III-nitride interlayers within the buffer layer structure further improves the stress management, in particular in the case of a silicon substrate, where the lattice mismatch to group-III-nitride materials is particularly high. Therefore, on the stress management layer sequence S comprising the first group-III-nitride layer 220, the single interlayer 230 and the second group-III-nitride layer 240, two repetitions of the stress management layer sequence are deposited. A first repetition contains a further single interlayer 231 and a further group-III-nitride layer 241, the group-III-nitride layer 240 is the first group-III-nitride layer in regard of the second single interlayer 231 and at the same time the second group-III-nitride layer in regard of the first single interlayer 230. A second repetition contains a further single interlayer 232 and a further group-III-nitride layer 242. Here the group-III-nitride layer 241 is the first group-III-nitride layer in regard of the third single interlayer 232 and the second group-III-nitride layer in regard of the second single interlayer 231. The first single interlayer 230 and its repetitions 231, 232 are thus all arranged between and adjacent to group-III-nitride layers, which in comparison have a lower band gap.

[0053] In a further embodiment also properties other than the thickness of the single interlayers can vary, preferably the Al content can decrease in the direction pointing away from the substrate. In another embodiment (not shown) more than one layer with lower band gap may follow the first group-III-nitride layer (or any of its repetitions).

[0054] The single interlayer 231 in this embodiment has identical properties (composition, thickness, growth temperature) as single interlayer layer 230. The group-III-nitride layer 241 corresponds to the third group-III-nitridelayer 240. However, in the present example, it is somewhat thicker than the third group-III-nitride layer 240, namely 2 µm thick. It is thus possible, but not a requirement to have the layers of the second stress management layer sequence S1 identical to corresponding layers of the original stress management layer sequence S. It is also possible to vary layer thicknesses between different repetitions of the second stress management layer sequence S2. However, the thickness of the first group-III-nitride layer 230 and its corresponding repetitions in the layers 231 and 232 is preferably the same.

[0055] Fig. 3 shows a transistor 300 as an application case of the group-III-nitridebuffer layer structure according to the invention. In this embodiment, an AlGaN buffer layer 350 having a Ga fraction increasing with increasing distance from a silicon substrate 310 is grown on the silicon substrate 310.

[0056] On the AlGaN buffer layer 350, a stress management layer sequence S is formed of three group-III-nitride layers 320 to 340, of which a single interlayer 330 is sandwiched between a first group-III-nitride layer 320 and a second group-III-nitridelayer 340. For the detailed characteristics of these layers, we refer to the above description of the layers 120 to 140 of the embodiment of Fig. 1.

[0057] The stress management layer sequence S is followed by a back barrier layer 360. The back barrier layer 360 is made of AlGaN and has a graded carbon concentration starting with a carbon concentration of 1x1018cm-3 at an interface between back barrier layer 360 and third group-III-nitride layer 340, and ending with a carbon concentration of less than 4x1016 cm-3 at an interface between back barrier layer 360 and a following active layer 370.

[0058] The active layer 370, which forms a channel layer that contains a 2DEG charge carrier channel active in operation of the transistor, is made of GaN and has a carbon concentration of 4x1016 cm-3. In the present example, it is 40 nm thick. A transistor based on the described structure shows the following properties: a charge carrier densitiy of around 1x1013cm-2, a high electron mobility of 1000-2500 cm2/(V·s) and a low sheet resistance clearly below 400 Ω/sq.

[0059] On the active layer 370, a barrier layer 380 is grown. The barrier layer is an AlGaN (AlGaInN) layer in the present example. In other embodiments, other compositions may be used that are suitable to form a potential barrier for charge carriers that are in the channel layer. The barrier layer has a thickness of 25 nm in the present example. A cap layer 390 is grown on the barrier layer 380 and forms a uppermost layer of the transistor structure (disregarding contacts). In the present case for d mode HEMT devices, the cap layer 390 is a p-doped GaN layer with a thickness of 4nm. In the cap layer 390 carbon is used a dopant at a concentration level of 1017 cm-3 in this example.

[0060] The buffer layer structure of this embodiment leads to a favorable stress management of the whole structure and at the same time achieves a high resistance below the active layers. The graded back barrier layer 360 additionally prevents carriers from entering the underlying layers of the buffer layer structure and the substrate, which improves the electrical performance of the device. The active layer 370 (GaN or InGaN) grown on the buffer layer structure exhibits a high crystal quality and a low resistance due to its low carbon concentration. With the GaN cap layer 390 a good electrical contact to contact structures and external devices is achieved. To reduce the series resistance of the HEMT device additional recess etching of GaN-cap and part of the AlGaN-layer in lateral sections for ohmic contact formation is favorable.

[0061] Fig. 4 a) shows a concentration diagram for parts of a transistor based on a buffer layer structure according to the invention as obtained from a secondary ion mass spectroscope (SIMS) measurement. Fig. 4b shows a current-voltage characteristic of the transistor of Fig. 4a).

[0062] Fig. 4 a) shows traces of an aluminum concentration 4000, a carbon concentration 4100 and an oxygen concentration 4200 on a logarithmic scale as a function of depth for a portion of the transistor including a buffer layer structure. Maxima 430, 431, 432 and 433 of the aluminium concentration 4000 are detected at the positions of the single interlayers. This is indicative of an Al contribution to AlGaN stoichiometry of the single interlayers.

[0063] A maximum 480 in the aluminum trace 4000 represents an AlGaN barrier layer. As can be seen from the diagram of Fig. 4 a), also the carbon concentration 4100 and the oxygen concentration exhibit respective maxima at the positions of the first group-III-nitride layers, i.e., at the Al peaks. The carbon concentration in the single interlayers is 2x1020cm-3, while the carbon concentration in the GaN layers between the single interlayers is slightly below 1x1017cm-3. Thus the carbon concentration in the single interlayers is 3 orders of magnitude higher than in the GaN layers there between. The formation of a 2DEG in the buffer layer structure is thereby suppressed. As shown in the diagram of Fig. 4 b) the transistor based on the described buffer layer structure with high carbon content (4300) exhibit high breakdown voltage and low leakage current. The characteristic curve of a transistor according to the invention is herein compared with the characteristic curve (4301) of a transistor based on a buffer layer structure which differs from the claimed structure in the fact that a low p-type concentration of less than 1x1018cm-3 is used in the interlayer structures.

[0064] Fig. 5 shows another embodiment of a buffer layer structure 500 according to the first aspect of the invention. Compared with the buffer layer structures of the Fig. 1 to 4, the buffer layer structure 500 comprises an interlayer structure 530 comprising three different layers instead of a single layer. After the growing of the first group-III-nitride layer 520, in this example made of unintentionally doped GaN, a second group-III-nitride interlayer 536 is grown also consisting of GaN. The second group-III-nitride interlayer is followed by a first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 and a third group-III-nitride interlayer 537, whereby the third group-III-nitride interlayer 536 also consist of GaN and is followed by a second group-III-nitride layer 540. The second and third group-III-nitride interlayers 535 and 537 have thicknesses of 50 nm in this embodiment. Thicknesses between 20 and 200 nm are favorable for these layers. The first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 comprises a group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap than the materials of the first and second group-III-nitride layers 520, 540, in this case AlGaN, and has a thickness of 30 nm. In the following variations of the buffer layer structure including different modifications of the AI content of the first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 and of the p-dopant concentration will be presented and their effects on the prevention of the 2DEG building.

Variation 1



[0065] Variation 1 of the layer structure shown in Fig. 5 includes the use of a first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 with constant aluminum content. The aluminum content profile for the structure is shown in Fig. 6 a) in principle. As stated before in this embodiment the second and third group-III-nitride interlayers 536 and 537 are made of GaN as well as the first and second group-III-nitride layers 520 and 540. The first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 consist of AlGaN. Fig. 6 b) shows the hole concentration profile for the structure, the hole concentration is 5x1018 cm-3 within the whole interlayer structure, thus in all three group-III-nitride interlayers 535, 536 and 537. The first and second group-III-nitride layers 520 and 540 are unintentionally doped. The hole concentration in the interlayer structure is achieved by intentionally doping the interlayers with magnesium or carbon. The shown hole concentration profile for this layer structure leads to the energy profiles of the layer structure shown in Fig. 6 c), whereby 601 represents the conduction band energy profile and 602 represents the valence band profile. As can be seen in Fig. 6 c) the building of a 2DEG at the interfaces between AlGaN and GaN, thus between the first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 and the second and third group-III-nitride interlayers 536 and 537 is effectively suppressed.

Variation 2



[0066] Variation 2 of the layer structure shown in Fig. 5 includes the use of a first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 with a gradient in the aluminum content. The aluminum content profile for the structure is shown in Fig. 7 a) in principle. In this embodiment the second and third group-III-nitride interlayers 536 and 537 are made of GaN as well as the first and second group-III-nitride layers 520 and 540. The aluminum content of the first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 increases from 10 % at the interface to the second group-III-nitride interlayer 536 to 70 % at the interface to third group-III-nitride interlayer 537. The increase can be either continuous as shown in the diagram or stepwise.

[0067] Fig. 7 b) shows the hole concentration profile for the structure, the hole concentration for this embodiment is 1x1018 cm-3 within the whole interlayer structure, thus in all three group-III-nitride interlayers 535, 536 and 537. The first and second group-III-nitride layers 520 and 540 are unintentionally doped.

[0068] As can be seen in Fig. 7 c) the building of a 2DEG at the interfaces between AlGaN and GaN, thus between the first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 and the second and third group-III-nitride interlayers 536 and 537 is effectively suppressed with the relatively smaller hole concentration respectively p-dopant-concentration if a graded AlGaN layer is used as the first group-III-nitride interlayer.

Variation 3



[0069] Variation 3 of the layer structure shown in Fig. 5 shows compared to Variation 2 another advantageous hole concentration profile with which the building of parasitic 2DEG can be effectively suppressed. The aluminum content profile for the structure, shown in Fig. 8 a) is in principle the same as the one shown in Fig. 7 a).

[0070] Fig. 8 b) shows the hole concentration profile for the structure, the hole concentration for this embodiment is 5x1018 cm-3 only in the second and third group-III-nitride interlayers 536 and 537, the first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 is unintentionally doped as well as the first and second group-III-nitride layers 520 and 540.

[0071] As can be seen in Fig. 8 c) where the energy bands fo the structure at 300V are shown, the building of a 2DEG at the interfaces between AlGaN and GaN, thus between the first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 and the second and third group-III-nitride interlayers 536 and 537 can also effectively be suppressed without intentional doping of the first group-III-nitride interlayer 535 if the doping level of the second and third group-III-nitride interlayers 536 and 537 is sufficiently high, even in operation.

[0072] As described in Fig. 2 relating to single interlayers also with the described interlayer structures comprising three group-III-nitride interlayers repetitions of the stress management layer sequence are advantageous. For example a first stress management layer sequence comprising a single interlayer made of AlN followed by a three stress management layer sequences each comprising a three-layer interlayer structure of GaN-AlGaN-GaN can be advantageous.


Claims

1. An epitaxial group-III-nitride buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) on a heterosubstrate (110, 210, 310, 510),

- wherein the buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) comprises at least one stress management layer sequence (S) including an interlayer structure (130, 230, 330, 530) arranged between and adjacent to a first and a second group-III-nitride layer (120, 140, 220, 240, 320, 340, 520, 540),

- wherein the interlayer structure (130, 230, 330, 530) comprises a group-III-nitride interlayer material having a larger band gap than the materials of the first and second group-III-nitride layers (120, 140, 220, 240, 320, 340, 520, 540), and

- wherein a p-type-dopant-concentration profile drops, starting from at least 1x1018 cm-3, by at least a factor of two in transition from the interlayer structure (130, 230, 330, 530) to the first and second group-III-nitride layers (120, 140, 220, 240, 320, 340, 520, 540),

- wherein the heterosubstrate is a silicon substrate,

- wherein the group-III-nitride buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) further comprises a buffer stack deposited between the heterosubstrate (110, 210, 310, 510) and the stress management layer sequence (S),

- wherein the group-III-nitride buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) further comprises a nucleation layer (255) deposited between the buffer stack and the substrate (110, 210, 310, 510),

- wherein the buffer stack comprises

a) either a compositionally graded AlGaN buffer layer having a Ga fraction increasing with increasing distance from the heterosubstrate (110, 210, 310, 510)

b) or a superlattice formed by a stack of alternating group-III-nitride layers of two kinds.


 
2. The buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to claim 1, wherein the nucleation layer (255) is an AlN layer.
 
3. The buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the p-type dopant concentration profile drops in transition from the interlayer structure (130, 230, 330, 530) to the first and second group-III-nitrlde layers (120, 140, 220, 240, 320, 340, 520, 540) by at least one order of magnitude or by at least two orders of magnitude.
 
4. The buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the p-type dopant concentration is constant throughout the interlayer structure (130, 230, 330).
 
5. The buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the interlayer structure (130, 230, 330) is a single layer and the group-III-nitride interlayer material is of homogeneous composition, which has a larger band gap than the first and second group-III-nitride layers (120, 140, 220, 240, 320, 340) and wherein the concentration of the p-type dopant in the interlayer structure (130, 230, 330) is at least 6x1018 cm-3.
 
6. The buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) of one of the claims 1 to 5, wherein the interlayer structure (130, 230, 330, 530) comprises a first group-III-nitride interlayer (535) that is arranged between and adjacent to a second group-III-nitride interlayer (536) and a third group-III-nitride interlayer (537), and wherein the first group-III-nitride interlayer (535) is compositionally and/or the second group-III-nitride interlayer (536) and/or the third group-III-nitride interlayer (537) graded.
 
7. The buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to claim 6, wherein the first group-III-nitride interlayer (535) is made of AlGaN having an Al mole fraction that increases with increasing distance from the substrate (110, 210, 310, 510).
 
8. The buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) of one of the preceding claims, wherein the p-type dopant is carbon or magnesium, or a combination of carbon and magnesium.
 
9. The buffer-layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) of one of the preceding claims, wherein the first or the second, or the first and the second group-III-nitride layer (120, 140, 220, 240, 320, 340, 520, 540) has a p-type-dopant concentration between 1x1016 /cm3 and 1x1018 /cm3.
 
10. The buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to one of the preceding claims, comprising at least two stress management layer sequences (S) wherein a second stress management layer sequence arranged at a larger distance from the substrate (110, 210, 310, 510) than a first stress management layer sequence (S) has a second interlayer structure.
 
11. The buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to claim 13, wherein the second interlayer structure differs from the first interlayer structure (130, 230, 330, 530) in at least one of the following: a layer thickness of at least one of the interlayers of the interlayer structure, a p-type dopant concentration in at least one of the interlayers of the interlayer structure, a material composition of at least one of the interlayers of the interlayer structure, and a number of interlayers in the interlayer structure.
 
12. The buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein an additional group-III-nitride layer is deposited on top of the buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) and wherein the additional layer has a graded p-type-dopant-concentration profile, wherein the p-type dopant concentration is higher in a first section of the additional layer adjacent to the buffer layer than in a second section of the additional layer further away from the buffer layer.
 
13. The buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the buffer stack has a p-type-dopant concentration of at least 1017 cm-3 or at least 1018 cm-3.
 
14. A group-III-nitride device, in particular a transistor, a FET, a normally-on or a normally-off HEMT or MIS-HEMT, a Schottky diode, a PIN diode, a LED comprising an epitaxial group-III-nitride buffer layer structure (100, 200, 300, 500) on a heterosubstrate (110, 210, 310, 510) according to one of the preceding claims.
 




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REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description