High-performance ultra-violet LED

Increases radiative efficiency, improves wall plug performance, and enhances light emission

Photonics Materials Electronics

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UV LEDs are optical sources used in a wide variety of military and commercial applications such as water purification, data storage, and secure communication systems. (Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures on Pexels)

Army Research Laboratory scientists developed a high-performance aluminum gallium nitride-based LED fabricated via molecular beam epitaxy. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Aluminum gallium nitride (AlGaN) is used in ultraviolet semiconductor optical sources operating at wavelengths between 260 to 360 nm due to its tunable bandgap from 3.4 eV to 6.2 eV. Such sources have diverse military and commercial applications, including water purification, phosphor-based white light sources, high-density data storage, bioagent detection, and non-line of sight covert communication.

A significant problem in manufacturing III-Nitride based sources, such as AlGaN alloys, is the lack of a native substrate for the homoepitaxial growth of epilayers. Consequently, most devices are deposited heteroepitaxially on mismatched lattice substrates, with the resulting layer quality limited by the high density of threading dislocations. Such threading dislocations reduce the radiative recombination efficiency of these materials.

ARL researchers have developed a fabrication method and device that use an AIGaN composition as the active region layer of a UV LED to provide carrier localization and enhanced radiative efficiency due to its localized inhomogeneities. A layer of AIGaN is deposited on a substrate using plasma-assisted molecular beam epitaxy, while the substrate temperature is maintained between 770 to 950° C. Light is generated through the radiative recombination of excited electron-hole pairs in the active region layer of the UV LED. These pairs can be created by either electrical injection, or by an optical/electron-beam pump. Enhancement of the radiative recombination efficiency in the active region layer also results in better wall plug performance as well as improved light emission.

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