Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Novel terahertz devices based on intersubband transitions in quantum wells
by Zhao, Le, Ph.D., Lehigh University, 2016, 185; 10192750
Abstract (Summary)

Since the fist demonstration of a terahertz (THz) semiconductor quantum cascade laser (QCL) in 2001, significant progress has been made towards development of THz QCLs. Among all solid-state sources of radiation, THz QCLs are the only type of coherent sources of THz radiation that can provide average optical power output of much greater than 1mW. THz QCLs could be designed to emit in the frequency range of 1.2-5.4 THz, and continuous-wave (cw) operation has been realized above the temperature of liquid-Nitrogen. Despite these developments, challenges still remain towards understanding the fundamental physics of intersubband transitions on which QCLs are based, and also towards further development of THz QCLs so that they could be readily used for various applications in THz chemical sensing and spectroscopy. This thesis describes four distinct technical contributions in the area of THz devices based on intersubband transitions in semiconductor superlattices: (a)~design and experiments towards development of hole-based intersubband lasers, (b)~demonstration of first electrically tunable THz QCLs that could operate at temperatures much greater than that of liquid-Helium, (c)~theoretical work towards development of a THz QCL based spectroscopic sensing scheme, and (d)~design and preliminary demonstration of a THz quantum-cascade intersubband photodetector utilizing a fast resonant-phonon depopulation scheme for relaxation of photo-excited electrons for high-temperature operation. The key aspects of each of the above contributions are briefly summarized below.

This work develops a density-matrix model of hole transport in p-type quantum-wells that is suitable for numerical evaluation of intersubband gain or loss. Two hole-based intersubband laser designs are proposed and experimentally investigated. Sequential resonant-tunneling transport is demonstrated, which indicates effective quantum-transport for heavy-holes and is promising toward development of the first hole-based intersubband laser.

In this thesis, a new tuning technique based on detuned intersubband absorption is developed, which can efficiently modify electric-susceptibility of the semiconductor medium and thus tune the resonant-frequency of a THz microcavity. Utilizing a coupled microcavity architecture, this approach is then utilized to electrically tune THz QCLs, with a major advantage that such a mechanism works for QCLs operating at much higher temperatures compared to previously demonstrated methods.

Based on theory and finite-element electromagnetic simulations, this thesis also proposes a broadband THz spectroscopic sensing scheme that utilizes on-chip arrays of single-mode QCLs. Such a scheme could be utilized for sensing of the THz refractive-index of solids or liquids in a reflection geometry.

In addition to high-power radiation sources, compact, low-cost, and high-sensitivity THz photodetectors are also essential components towards realization of THz sensing and spectroscopy systems. This thesis also proposes a novel type of sensitive THz photodetector, the quantum-cascade detector (QCD), which operates at non-zero electrical bias. The design scheme primarily utilizes a superlattice structure that utilizes ultrafast electron-phonon scattering in GaAs/AlGaAs for relaxation of photoexcited electrons in the conduction band, much like that in resonant-phonon depopulation based THz QCLs. Qualitative analysis about the detector's current-noise, responsivity (R), and detectivity (D*) suggest that the newly proposed intersubband photodetector could potentially operate at higher temperatures than existing zero-bias quantum-cascade detectors, and with higher responsivities. Preliminary experimental results are demonstrated, which show strong photo-response at a temperature of 50 K that is already comparable to the maximum operating temperature of conventional QCDs reported in literature. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kumar, Sushil
Commitee: Kumar, Sushil, Stavola, Michael, Wierer, Jonathan, Zhou, Chao
School: Lehigh University
Department: Electrical Engineering
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 78/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Electrical engineering, Optics
Keywords: Intersubband transitions, Phonon scattering, Quantum cascade detectors, Quantum cascade lasers, Tunable lasers
Publication Number: 10192750
ISBN: 978-1-369-33842-3
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