Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Electrical Engineering


Electrical Engineering


Dennis Derickson


Gallium Nitride (GaN) high electron mobility transistors (HEMT) have superior performance characteristics compared to Silicon (Si) and Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) based transistors. GaN is a wide bandgap semiconductor which allows it to operate at higher breakdown voltages and power. Unlike traditional semiconductor devices, the GaN HEMT channel region is undoped and relies on the piezoelectric effect created at the GaN and Aluminum Gallium Nitride (AlGaN) heterojunction to create a conduction channel in the form of a quantum well known as the two dimensional electron gas (2DEG). Because the GaN HEMTs are undoped, these devices have higher electron mobility crucial for high frequency operation. However, over time and use these devices degrade in a manner that is not well understood. This research utilizes low frequency noise (LFN) as a method for analyzing changes and degradation mechanisms in GaN-on-Si devices due to gate stress.

LFN is a useful tool for probing different regions of the device that cannot be measured through direct means. LFN generation in GaN HEMTs is based on the carrier fluctuation theory of 1/f noise generation which states fluctuations in the number of charge carriers results in conductance fluctuations that produce a Lorentzian noise spectrum. The summing Lorentzian noise spectra from multiple traps leads to 1/f and random telegraph signal (RTS) noise. The primary cause of carrier fluctuations are electron traps near the 2DEG and in the AlGaN bulk. These traps occur naturally due to dislocations and impurities in the manufacturing process, but new traps can be generated by the inverse-piezoelectric effect during gate stress.

This thesis introduces noise and presents a circuit to bias the devices and measure gate and drain LFN simultaneously. Three measurements are performed before and after gate DC stress at three different temperatures: DC characterization, capacitance-voltage (C-V) measurements, and LFN measurements. The DC characteristics show an increase in gate leakage after stress caused by an increase in traps after degradation consistent with trap assisted tunneling. However, the leakage current on the drain and source side differ before and after stress leading to the conclusion that the source side of the gate is more sensitive to gate stress. Gate leakage current on the drain side is also sensitive to temperature due to thermionic trap assisted tunneling. Hooge parameter calculations agree with previous research. The LFN results show an increase in gate and drain noise power, SIg(f) and SId(f), in accordance with increased gate leakage current under cutoff bias. RTS noise is also observed to increase in frequency with increased temperature. Activation energies for RTS noise are extracted and qualitatively linked to trap depth based on the McWhorter trap model.