InP-based HBTs for ultrahigh speed optical communications systems operation at over 40 GHz require a long-term stability under high current injection conditions, such as current densities of 2 or 5 mA/μm2. We achieved high reliability by suppressing surface recombination and emitter-metal-related crystalline degradation.
Changes in the electric properties of devices due to temperature and bias stress were evaluated. The reduction in DC current gain due to surface recombination had the activation energy of 1.7 eV without current density dependence, and the lifetime of HBTs for this degradation mode is predicted to be over 1×108 hours at 125°C. The emitter metal diffusion and disruption of uniformity of the atomic composition were observed by transmission electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy in HBTs with the conventional Ti/Pt/Au emitter, whereas suppression of those degradations was observed in HBTs with refractory metal of Mo and W. The emitter resistance was estimated to evaluate the contact layer degradation. The critical time was one order larger for HBTs with refractory metal than for HBTs with conventional metal. The activation energies for resistance increases were 2.0 and 1.65 eV for the current density of 2 and 5 mA/μm2, respectively, for all types of emitter electrodes.
The effectiveness of the refractory metal electrode for improving device reliability was confirmed, especially in high-current-density operation, which is essential for applying InP HBTs in high-speed ICs.