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Opt Express. 2012 Sep 24;20(20):22490-502. doi: 10.1364/OE.20.022490.

Structural factors impacting carrier transport and electroluminescence from Si nanocluster-sensitized Er ions.

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  • 1Centre de Recherche sur les Ions, les Matériaux et la Photonique, CIMAP, ENSICAEN, CNRS, CEA/IRAMIS, Université de Caen, 14050 CAEN cedex, France.


We present an analysis of factors influencing carrier transport and electroluminescence (EL) at 1.5 µm from erbium-doped silicon-rich silica (SiOx) layers. The effects of both the active layer thickness and the Si-excess content on the electrical excitation of erbium are studied. We demonstrate that when the thickness is decreased from a few hundred to tens of nanometers the conductivity is greatly enhanced. Carrier transport is well described in all cases by a Poole-Frenkel mechanism, while the thickness-dependent current density suggests an evolution of both density and distribution of trapping states induced by Si nanoinclusions. We ascribe this observation to stress-induced effects prevailing in thin films, which inhibit the agglomeration of Si atoms, resulting in a high density of sub-nm Si inclusions that induce traps much shallower than those generated by Si nanoclusters (Si-ncs) formed in thicker films. There is no direct correlation between high conductivity and optimized EL intensity at 1.5 µm. Our results suggest that the main excitation mechanism governing the EL signal is impact excitation, which gradually becomes more efficient as film thickness increases, thanks to the increased segregation of Si-ncs, which in turn allows more efficient injection of hot electrons into the oxide matrix. Optimization of the EL signal is thus found to be a compromise between conductivity and both number and degree of segregation of Si-ncs, all of which are governed by a combination of excess Si content and sample thickness. This material study has strong implications for many electrically-driven devices using Si-ncs or Si-excess mediated EL.

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