Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



First Adviser

Dierolf, Volkmar

Other advisers/committee members

Tansu, Nelson; Stavola, Michael; Fowler, W. Beall; Huennekens, John


Wide band gap semiconductors doped with rare earth ions (RE) have shown great potential for applications in optoelectronics, photonics, and spintronics. The 1.54μm Erbium (Er) emission has been extensively utilized in optical fiber communications, and Europium (Eu) is commonly used as a red color component for LEDs and fluorescence lamps. For the realization of spintronic-type devices, a dilutely doped semiconductor that exhibits room temperature ferromagnetic behavior would be desirable. Such behavior has been observed in GaN:Er. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that strain may play an important role in the control of this ferromagnetism; however, this requires further investigation.One motivation of this work is the realization of an all solid state white light source monolithically integrated into III/V nitride semiconductor materials, ideally GaN. For this, the current AlGaAs-based LEDs need to be replaced. One approach for achieving efficient red emission from GaN is dilute doping with fluorescent ions. In this regard, Eu has consistently been the most promising candidate as a dopant in the active layer for a red, GaN based, LED due to the sharp 5D0 to 7F2 transitions that result in red emission around 620nm. The success of GaN:Eu as the active layer for a red LED is based on the ability for the Eu ions to be efficiently excited by electron hole pairs. Thus, the processes by which energy is transferred from the host to the Eu ions has been studied. Complications arise, however, from the fact that Eu ions incorporate into multiple center environments, the structures of which are found to have a profound influence on the excitation pathways and efficiencies of the Eu ion. Therefore the nature of Eu incorporation and the resulting luminescence efficiency in GaN has been extensively investigated. By performing a comparative study on GaN:Eu samples grown under a variety of controlled conditions and using a variety of experimental techniques, the majority site has been concluded to contain a nitrogen vacancy (VN) in its immediate structure. The nitrogen vacancy can appear in two symmetries, which has a profound impact on the luminescence and magnetic properties of the sample. The structure of the minority site has also been identified. For both sites, we give substantial evidence that the excitation efficiency of the red Eu emission is improved by the presence of donor-acceptor pairs in the vicinity of the Eu.Furthermore, when Mg was co-doped into GaN:Eu, additional incorporation environments were discovered that show high excitation efficiency at room temperature. These have been attributed to the coupling of Mg-H complexes to the majority Eu site. Electron beam irradiation, indirect and resonant (direct) laser excitation were found to modify these complexes, indicating that vibrational energy alone can trigger the migration of the H, while the presence of additional charges and excess energy controls the type of reconfiguration and the activation of non-radiative decay channels. We identify, experimentally, a two-step process in the dissociation of Mg-H complexes and propose, based on density functional theory, that the presence of minority carriers and the resulting charge states of complexes can also influence this process.In GaN:Er, we have given a more thorough overview of the optical and magneto-optical properties by extending to the 800nm excitation range and drastically improving the signal-to-noise ratio in the magnetic measurements, as well as applying a perpendicular magnetic field. This has allowed us to calculate g-factors for the parallel case, but revealed that the Zeeman interaction is not quite linear for perpendicular magnetic fields. We were able to assign crystal field numbers of μ = 3/2 to two crystal field levels. We have also given strong evidence that the strain in the sample, which results from lattice mismatch, enhances its magnetization, as seen through fluorescence line narrowing and asymmetry between the Zeeman transition intensities, under application of magnetic fields in anti-parallel directions.

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