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Large-scale and high-quality III-nitride membranes through microcavity-assisted crack propagation by engineering tensile-stressed Ni layers

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image: Representative schematic illustration and digital camera images for microcavity-assisted crack propagation and its corresponding undoped-GaN and green LED membranes, respectively view more 

Credit: OEA

A new publication from Opto-Electronic Advances, 10.29026/oes.2022.220016 discusses large-scale and high-quality III-nitride membranes through microcavity-assisted crack propagation by engineering tensile-stressed Ni layers.


The main purpose of this research was to develop an unprecedented exfoliation technique of large-scale and high-quality III-nitride alloys for practical use in the semiconductor industry. In general, a micrometer thick epitaxial layer for InGaN-based light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are grown on more than hundred micrometer thick sapphire substrates at high temperature (> 1000 °C). An important point is that the inevitable use of the thick sapphire substrates has led to a lot of shortcomings such as the insulative property, low thermal conductivity, inflexibility, etc. Thus, the LED thin layers grown on the substrates lead to many challenges to develop device applications, especially micro-LED display. Although these drawbacks can be resolved by removing the substrates, it is challenging due to its strong interfacial fracture toughness with mixed covalent-ionic bonds. Our group’s research has been dedicated to removing the substrates at large scale while maintaining the film quality for fabricating III-nitride membranes. Briefly, intermediate microcavity layers have been introduced to alleviate the interfacial fracture toughness, and the residual tensile-stressed Ni layers were engineered to achieve sufficient energy release rate to conveniently exfoliate the GaN-based layers from the interfaces. Based on this mechanical lift-off technique, we demonstrated large-scale undoped-GaN and green LED membranes and verified the quality by fabricating opto-electronic devices, such as ultraviolet (UV) photodetectors and vertical-type green LEDs after the large-scale exfoliation.


The authors of this article introduce microcavity-assisted crack propagation to obtain large-scale and high-quality III-nitride membranes. Nanoporous structures have been fabricated to be used as a template to grow high-quality GaN-based layers such as undoped-GaN and green LEDs. During the high temperature overgrowth of the layers, the nanoporous structures were transformed into micro-size cavity structures. The key role for the micro-size cavity structures is primarily to alleviate the original interfacial toughness of GaN by reducing surface area. The reduced interfacial toughness, called the effective interfacial toughness, can be adjusted by modulating the surface porosity and the depth of nanoporous structures. Based on the overgrown target layers (undoped-GaN and green LEDs) with the effective interfacial toughness, we applied tensile-stressed Ni layers, callled a Ni stressor, to provide sufficient energy release rate. The target layers were easily exfoliated at the interfaces of microcavity structures by matching the energy release rate obtained from the Ni stressors, which is deposited by electroplating, to the effective interfacial toughness. After the large-scale exfoliation, the quality of the undoped-GaN membrane was verified by measuring rocking curves through X-ray diffraction. Moreover, we demonstrated vertical-type UV photodetectors and greed LEDs manufactured by the exfoliated membranes. The devices showed moderate electrical and optical performances, which could also prove that the quality of the thin films is preserved after the large-scale exfoliation.


Article reference: Min JH, Lee K, Chung TH, Min JW, Li KH et al. Large-scale and high-quality III-nitride membranes through microcavity-assisted crack propagation by engineering tensile-stressed Ni layers. Opto-Electron Sci 1, 220016 (2022). doi: 10.29026/oes.2022.220016 

Keywords: III-nitride alloys / membranes / nanoporous / Ni stressor / light-emitting diodes / ultraviolet photodetectors

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The research in the Photonics Laboratory at KAUST aims at delivering compact and energy-saving integrated laser-diode and LEDs based devices and solutions for applications requiring light spanning the ultraviolet to the visible and near-infrared regime. The research into laser and LEDs device physics and group III-V nanostructures for future applications further enable practical solutions to be applied to the current issues related to energy, water, and food. The laboratory has thus far embarked upon and realized innovative solutions and patent portfolios on: (1) oil-well/downhole and date-palms optical fiber sensing, (2) underwater laser-based network, (3) laser solid-state lighting and Li-Fi, (4) broadband optical telecommunication lasers, (5) laser-based indoor horticulture. The current semiconductor photonics research focused on developing Ga2O3 and GaN based membrane, solar-assisted electrochemical conversion, micro-LEDs, and high-speed III-nitride photodetectors. In-house sub-systems' design and test, laser-diode and optoelectronics know-how, molecular beam epitaxy growth capability and advanced fabrication techniques further fueled the innovative and creative activities within the laboratory for achieving the broader research impact in domestic and global industry.

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Opto-Electronic Advances (OEA) is a high-impact, open access, peer reviewed monthly SCI journal with an impact factor of 8.933 (Journal Citation Reports for IF2021). Since its launch in March 2018, OEA has been indexed in SCI, EI, DOAJ, Scopus, CA and ICI databases over the time and expanded its Editorial Board to 36 members from 17 countries and regions (average h-index 49).

The journal is published by The Institute of Optics and Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, aiming at providing a platform for researchers, academicians, professionals, practitioners, and students to impart and share knowledge in the form of high quality empirical and theoretical research papers covering the topics of optics, photonics and optoelectronics.

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