Molecular beam epitaxial growth of rare-earth compounds for semimetal/semiconductor heterostructure optical devices
Heterostructures of materials with dramatically different properties are exciting for a variety of devices. In particular, the epitaxial integration of metals with semiconductors is promising for low-loss tunnel junctions, embedded Ohmic contacts, high-conductivity spreading layers, as well as optical devices based on the surface plasmons at metal/semiconductor interfaces. This thesis investigates the structural, electrical, and optical properties of compound (III-V) semiconductors employing rare-earth monopnictide (RE-V) nanostructures. Tunnel junctions employing RE-V nanoparticles are developed to enhance current optical devices, and the epitaxial incorporation of RE-V films is discussed for embedded electrical and plasmonic devices. Leveraging the favorable band alignments of RE-V materials in GaAs and GaSb semiconductors, nanoparticle-enhanced tunnel junctions are investigated for applications of wide-bandgap tunnel junctions and lightly-doped tunnel junctions in optical devices. Through optimization of the growth space, ErAs nanoparticle-enhanced GaAs tunnel junctions exhibit conductivity similar to the best reports on the material system. Additionally, GaSb-based tunnel junctions are developed with low p-type doping that could reduce optical loss in the cladding of a 4 μm laser by ~75%. These tunnel junctions have several advantages over competing approaches, including improved thermal stability, precise control over nanoparticle location, and incorporation of a manifold of states at the tunnel junction interface. Investigating the integration of RE-V nanostructures into optical devices revealed important details of the RE-V growth, allowing for quantum wells to be grown within 15nm of an ErAs nanoparticle layer with minimal degradation (i.e. 95% of the peak photoluminescence intensity). This investigation into the MBE growth of ErAs provides the foundation for enhancing optical devices with RE-V nanostructures. Additionally, the improved understanding of ErAs growth leads to development of a method to grow full films of RE-V embedded in III-V materials. The growth method overcomes the mismatch in rotational symmetry of RE-V and III-V materials by seeding film growth with epitaxial nanoparticles, and growing the film through a thin III-V spacer. The growth of RE-V films is promising for both embedded electrical devices as well as a potential path towards realization of plasmonic devices with epitaxially integrated metallic films.