Degradation and failure phenomena in high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) are complex functions of electrical, thermal, and mechanical stresses as well as the quality of the device materials and their interfaces. Thus, it is difficult to predict or identify the dominant mechanism under various test protocols adopted in the literature. We propose that real-time visualization of the device microstructure can shift this paradigm. This is demonstrated by operating electron transparent AlGaN/GaN HEMTs inside a transmission electron microscope (TEM). Through the bright-field, diffraction, and energy dispersive spectroscopy techniques, we show that it is possible to characterize the lattice defects and diffusion of the various elements and thus monitor the microstructural quality during the transistor failure. Off-state failure studies in the TEM clearly show the critical role of defects and interfaces that lead to punch-through mechanisms at the drain and even source sides. The "seeing while measuring" approach presented in this study can be useful in pinpointing the dominant failure mechanisms and their fundamental origin.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)