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Gate-Induced Schottky Barrier Lowering Effect

in AlGaN/GaN Metal2DEG Tunnel Junction
Field Effect Transistor
Li Yuan, Hongwei Chen, Qi Zhou, Chunhua Zhou, and Kevin J. Chen, Senior Member, IEEE

AbstractThe Schottky-source forward currentvoltage characteristics were measured and analyzed in a recently reported
AlGaN/GaN metal2-D-electron-gas tunnel junction field-effect
transistor (FET) (TJ-FET) in order to characterize the effective
Schottky barrier height (SBH) and its gate bias dependence. The
SBHs were extracted and found to be gate bias dependent, varying
from 0.57 eV at VGS = 0.5 V to 0.3 eV at VGS = 1 V. This
gate-induced Schottky barrier lowering (SBL) effect is explained
by the image-charge effect. A 2-D device simulation is carried out
to analyze the SBL effect and is shown to be in good agreement
with the experiment results. The larger SBH at lower gate voltage
enables OFF-state blocking, while the lower SBH at higher gate
voltage leads to high ON-state current driving capability in the
Index TermsAlGaN/GaN HEMT, metal2-D electron gas
(2DEG) junction, Schottky barrier lowering (SBL), Schottky
source, tunnel junction field-effect transistor (FET) (TJ-FET).


Metal-2DEG Tunnel Junction Field Effect Transistor
(TJ-FET) has been demonstrated recently [1], [2]. The high
drive current, low OFF-state current, and high breakdown
voltage make them suitable for power electronics application.
In this device, the source metal forms a Schottky contact to
the 2DEG channel from the sideway instead of the traditional
thermal-annealed ohmic contact. As the driving current of
TJ-FETs is dominated by the Schottky barrier height (SBH)
and Schottky barrier width at the source junction, it is of great
importance to characterize the source Schottky junction in
The SBH at a metal/semiconductor junction can be affected
by the image charge buildup in the metal electrode as electrons
approach the metalsemiconductor interface. The potential associated with the image charge can reduce the SBH and yield an
effective Schottky barrier lowering (SBL) effect [3][6] which
is directly correlated to the currentvoltage (IV ) characteristics of a Schottky junction. Recently, the SBL effect is being
Manuscript received May 13, 2011; revised May 30, 2011; accepted June 4,
2011. Date of publication July 7, 2011; date of current version August 24, 2011.
This work is supported in part by the Hong Kong Innovation Technology Fund
under Grant ITS/122/09FP and in part by the Hong Kong RGC under GRF
Grant 611610. The review of this letter was arranged by Editor G. Meneghesso.
The authors are with the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Color versions of one or more of the figures in this letter are available online
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/LED.2011.2159258

Fig. 1. Illustration of the gate-induced barrier lowering at the Schottky source

junction of an AlGaN/GaN metal2DEG TJ-FET. CB profiles of GaN at the
AlGaN/GaN heterojunction are plotted (solid lines) with and (dashed lines)
without the SBL effect at three gate biases. X = 0 is the position of the
source metal2DEG contact. The Fermi level of the source Schottky metal is
designated as the origin (0 eV) of the energy band.

investigated in the context of Schottky barrier FETs and its

dependence on the gate bias [7][9].
To analyze the performance of the AlGaN/GaN TJ-FET, it is
important to extract the SBH at the metal/2DEG junction and
its dependence on the gate bias. The image force induced SBL
effect could be illustrated by the schematic energy band diagrams in Fig. 1. The potential of the image charge is described
by (x) = q/16S x, where q is the electron charge, S is the
permittivity of the semiconductor, and x is the distance from
the metalGaN junction. Although the image charge potential is
independent of the gate bias, the SBL is a combinational effect
of the image charge potential and the initial Schottky junction
band profile that has strong gate-bias dependence, as suggested
in Fig. 1. More positive gate bias can induce larger SBL at the
source junction.
In this paper, Schottky-source forward IV characteristics
were investigated on the AlGaN/GaN TJ-FET [1] to extract the
effective SBH of the source junction at different gate biases.
Although the Schottky source junction is reverse biased during
TJ-FETs operation, the synchronous source and gate sweeping
against a grounded drain in our measurement ensures that
the gatesource bias is the same as those used in TJ-FETs
operation. The gate-induced SBL is experimentally revealed,
and the results provide the foundation for understanding the
merits of the AlGaN/GaN metal2DEG TJ-FETs.
The devices used in this paper are identical to the ones
reported in [1], featuring a gate length of 2 m and a gatedrain

0741-3106/$26.00 2011 IEEE



Fig. 2. (a) Biasing scheme used in the forward Schottky-source IV measurement. The drain is grounded while the source and gate are swept from 0 to
1 V simultaneously (VS = VDS ). A dc bias is applied between the source
and gate during the voltage sweep. (b) Schematic energy band profiles when
the source is forward biased.

distance of 2 m. The barrier consists of an AlN interface

enhancement layer (1 nm), an 18-nm-thick Al0.25 Ga0.75 N
layer, and a 2-nm GaN cap layer. The Schottky source junction
is a Ti/GaN Schottky contact, with the unique feature of highdensity 2DEG in the undoped GaN layer. The measurement
setup used in the SBH extraction is depicted in Fig. 2(a). The
source and gate voltage are swept synchronously with a preset
dc voltage VGS between the gate and the source. The fixed VGS
serves the purpose of keeping the energy band bending of the
Schottky source junction similar to that which occurred during
the IDS VDS measurement of the TJ-FETs. Fig. 2(b) plots the
energy band profile from the source to the drain when the source
Schottky junction is forward biased at 1 V with a VGS = 0 V.
It should be noted that the source Schottky junction is forward
biased in this paper, different from the biasing conditions in
the TJ-FETs operation when the source Schottky junction is
reverse biased.
The gatesource bias is set in the subthreshold region of
the TJ-FET (VGS < Vth = 1.35 V) [1] so that the tunneling
part of the forward Schottky current could be negligible and
the thermionic emission component dominates. The thermionic
emission model of a Schottky diode [10] depicts the IV
characteristics as

IS = AA T 2 exp


q (VS IS R)



Fig. 3. (a) Measured VGS -dependent forward source IS VS characteristics

of a TJ-FET at room temperature (the inset includes the reverse source IS VS
characteristics). (b) Function F (V ) used in the Norde method of extracting the
SBH. The minimum points are plotted as black squares along the F (V ) curves.

The Norde method [11] is used to avoid the problems associated with the series resistance during the SBH extraction. In
the Norde method, a new function F (VS ) is defined and used
for SBH extraction

F (VS ) =

AA T 2
where = q/nkT . In the F (VS )VS plot, a minimum can be
found and used for extraction of the SBH B and the series
resistance R as follows:
B =

where A is the contact area, A is the Richardson constant, n

is the ideality factor, R is the series resistance, and B = qB
represents the effective SBH.
The VGS -dependent forward Schottky-source IV characteristics were measured at room temperature to determine the
SBHVGS relationship of the AlGaN/GaN TJ-FETs. As shown
in Fig. 3(a), at relatively large VGS (e.g. from 0.5 to 1 V), the
linear regions in the log (IS )VS characteristics are small due
to the unnegligible series resistance at large current. Thus, it is
difficult to use (1) in the forward bias region to extract SBH at
high VGS . Nevertheless, a clear linear region exists in the log
(IS )VS plot when VGS is in the range from 0.5 to 0.25 V,
and the ideality factor n is extracted to be 1.4 and used in the
SBH extraction discussed next.

F (V0 ) + V20





where V0 and I0 are the voltage and current at the minimum in

the F (VS )VS plot.
In (2), the metal2DEG contact area A is estimated from
the product of the simulated 2DEG channel thickness and the
source contact width (10 m). According to the 2-D simulation,
the 2DEG thickness (defined as the thickness of the channel
layer with electron density larger than 1019 cm3 ) varies from
0.5 to 1.7 nm as VGS changed from 0.5 to 1 V. The Richardson
constant of GaN system is set as the theoretical value,
26.4 A cm2 K2 .
The F (VS )VS plots at various VGS are shown in Fig. 3(b).
From the identified minimums, B and R are extracted and
shown in Fig. 4. B is clearly dependent on the gate bias,


Fig. 4. Measured and simulated SBHs and the extracted series resistance of
the forward-biased metal2DEG Schottky junction shown in Fig. 2(a).


Fig. 5 plots the simulated conduction band (CB) profiles

of the TJ-FET under different gate biases with and without
considering the SBL effect. Considering the SBL effect, the
SBH drops from 0.61 to 0.57 eV at VGS = 0.5 V, to 0.3 eV
at VGS = 1 V, and to 0.19 eV at VGS = 3 V. The imagecharge effect also tends to reduce the effective thickness of the
Schottky barrier. The simulated SBH at higher VGS is plotted
in Fig. 4. At negative VGS , the SBH of the source junction
remains to be large to provide the TJ-FET with good OFF-state
blocking capability. At higher VGS , the SBH is significantly
lowered, and therefore, high tunneling current through the
TJ-FETs source junction can be obtained. This is consistent
with the high drive capability and low OFF-state leakage reported in the experimental work [1].
The SBL effect has been experimentally investigated in
AlGaN/GaN metal2DEG TJ-FETs. The effective SBH under
different gate biases is extracted, changing from 0.57 to 0.3 eV
when VGS is increased from 0.5 to 1 V. The experimental
results have also been verified by device simulation, providing explanation to the measured device characteristics of the

Fig. 5. Simulated SBH at VGS = 0.5 to 3.0 V in a 0.5-V step and VDS =
0 V (solid lines) with and (dashed lines) without the SBL effect.

and the Schottky barrier exhibits strong gate-induced barrier

lowering effect. The extracted SBH changes from 0.57 to
0.3 eV when VGS changes from 0.5 to 1 V. It should be
noted that the effective gatedrain forward bias needs to be
kept lower than 2 V to avoid the influence of the gate leakage
In order to validate the results in Section II, 2-D device
simulation using the Dessis-ISE tool is performed to calculate the SBH under different gate biases. All the physical
dimensions of the simulated device are identical to that of
the fabricated device. An excellent agreement was found between the simulated SBH and the extracted SBH (as shown
in Fig. 4) when the original SBH of the source Schottky
contact without the barrier lowering effect is set to be
0.61 eV. To our best knowledge, this is the first determination
of the SBH at a Ti/GaN2DEG Schottky junction. In the
simulation, the AlGaN barrier layer thickness is 20 nm, and the
2DEG density is about 9 1012 cm2 in the absence of the gate

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