Summary
Gallium nitride () is a binary III/V direct bandgap semiconductor commonly used in blue light-emitting diodes since the 1990s. The compound is a very hard material that has a Wurtzite crystal structure. Its wide band gap of 3.4 eV affords it special properties for applications in optoelectronic, high-power and high-frequency devices. For example, GaN is the substrate which makes violet (405 nm) laser diodes possible, without requiring nonlinear optical frequency-doubling. Its sensitivity to ionizing radiation is low (like other group III nitrides), making it a suitable material for solar cell arrays for satellites. Military and space applications could also benefit as devices have shown stability in high radiation environments. Because GaN transistors can operate at much higher temperatures and work at much higher voltages than gallium arsenide (GaAs) transistors, they make ideal power amplifiers at microwave frequencies. In addition, GaN offers promising characteristics for THz devices. Due to high power density and voltage breakdown limits GaN is also emerging as a promising candidate for 5G cellular base station applications. Since the early 2020s, GaN power transistors have come into increasing use in power supplies in electronic equipment, converting AC mains electricity to low-voltage DC. GaN is a very hard (Knoop hardness 14.21 GPa), mechanically stable wide-bandgap semiconductor material with high heat capacity and thermal conductivity. In its pure form it resists cracking and can be deposited in thin film on sapphire or silicon carbide, despite the mismatch in their lattice constants. GaN can be doped with silicon (Si) or with oxygen to n-type and with magnesium (Mg) to p-type. However, the Si and Mg atoms change the way the GaN crystals grow, introducing tensile stresses and making them brittle. Gallium nitride compounds also tend to have a high dislocation density, on the order of 108 to 1010 defects per square centimeter. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) provided the first measurement of the high field electron velocity in GaN in 1999.
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Wide-bandgap semiconductor
Wide-bandgap semiconductors (also known as WBG semiconductors or WBGSs) are semiconductor materials which have a larger band gap than conventional semiconductors. Conventional semiconductors like silicon have a bandgap in the range of 0.6 – 1.5 electronvolt (eV), whereas wide-bandgap materials have bandgaps in the range above 2 eV. Generally, wide-bandgap semiconductors have electronic properties which fall in between those of conventional semiconductors and insulators.
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In semiconductor production, doping is the intentional introduction of impurities into an intrinsic semiconductor for the purpose of modulating its electrical, optical and structural properties. The doped material is referred to as an extrinsic semiconductor. Small numbers of dopant atoms can change the ability of a semiconductor to conduct electricity. When on the order of one dopant atom is added per 100 million atoms, the doping is said to be low or light.
Gallium nitride
Gallium nitride () is a binary III/V direct bandgap semiconductor commonly used in blue light-emitting diodes since the 1990s. The compound is a very hard material that has a Wurtzite crystal structure. Its wide band gap of 3.4 eV affords it special properties for applications in optoelectronic, high-power and high-frequency devices. For example, GaN is the substrate which makes violet (405 nm) laser diodes possible, without requiring nonlinear optical frequency-doubling.
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