Recent interest in biological imaging, remote sensing, and biochemical spectroscopy has made nanoscale Terahertz (THz) emitters based on semiconductors become extremely attractive. THz lasers with good performance (emitting over 1 milliWatt CW at 10 K) have been fabricated from the group III-V compounds by molecular beam epitaxy, but such devices are complex with over 500 quantum wells and barriers and are incompatible with low cost Si processing. Similar devices from the SiGe system have had difficulties because the strain limits the total number of active layers, and have produced relatively poor performance (peak powers near 5 nW), even using strain symmetric active regions on virtual substrates of relaxed SiGe buffers. We report here on the characteristics of a new type of THz emitting device with higher powers (above 0.1 milliWatt) based on radiative impurity transitions in doped silicon, which can be simply fabricated without Ge alloying.
The THz emitters were fabricated from both p-type and n-type doped silicon wafers with typical resistivities of 5 Ω-cm, using conventional photolithography and metal contact lift off. Samples were electrically pulsed and the electroluminescence was measured by Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometry. At 4.2 K, the emission spectra showed several peaks centered around 8.1 THz for the boron doped device, 7 to 13 THz for the gallium doped device, and 6.6 THz for the phosphorus doped device. The electroluminescence was attributed to radiative transitions from excited p-like to s-like hydrogenic dopant states, with emission energies in remarkable agreement with the known dopant absorption levels. Current-voltage measurement suggested an excitation mechanism based on impact ionization of neutral dopants by hot carriers. The net quantum efficiency (emitted photons per injected electron) was estimated to be up to 2 × 10-3. The temperature dependence will be reported with operation above 30 K.