Materials World Network: III-V Bismide Materials for IR and Mid IR Semiconductors

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: ATI Physics


III-V compound semiconductor materials are increasingly important for the development of many modern materials applications and in particular optoelectronic and electronic devices. These include materials for laser diodes, light emitting diodes (LEDs), photovoltaics & photodetectors, avalanche photodiodes, THz emitters & detectors, heterojunction bipolar transistors, and spintronic devices. Over the years several elements from the III-V system have been investigated to advance these material systems in order to persistently progress towards superior devices and to exploit novel material properties for advanced device applications. It is particularly important and timely to develop new materials which improve the operating efficiency of devices and reduce energy consumption. For example, the unexpected runaway success of GaN alloys as a new class of semiconductor materials for LEDs (e.g. in solid-state lighting) and high temperature/high power electronics has inspired research into whether other previously overlooked semiconductor alloys offer similar opportunities for different applications. An example of a relatively unexplored family of semiconductor materials is the alloys of the heaviest naturally occurring group V element, bismuth. Bismuth is the heaviest non-radioactive element in the periodic table, and unusually for the heavy elements, it is non-toxic and relatively inexpensive, meaning it has found application in elemental form in fire-safety systems (due to its low melting point) and thermocouples. Furthermore, since spin orbit splitting increases super linearly with atomic number, Bi-alloys have a very large spin orbit splitting compared with conventional semiconductor alloys, and thus presents interesting opportunities for new types of electronic devices based on electron spin. Consequently III-V bismides offer many new prospects in the area of materials research and the opportunity to develop an innovative class of materials for the expansion of science and technology. Some of the strategic attributes offered by III-V bismide materials are: i) the potential to cover near infrared (IR) wavelengths up to 3 um on GaAs substrates and all wavelengths beyond 2 um on GaSb substrates, ii) a uniquely large spin orbit splitting which provides an opportunity for semiconductor spintronic devices, iii) a spin orbit band offset that is typically larger than bandgap energy which provides an opportunity to develop active materials with significantly reduced Auger recombination, iv) a small temperature dependence of the band gap energy that offers improved temperature stability for emitters and detectors, and v) the opportunity for band offset engineering that offers substantial improvement for hole confinement in GaSb based mid IR diode lasers. To further exploit and develop these various possibilities, an international team of theorists and experimentalists with expertise in materials and devices is proposed. This team is expected to rapidly advance science, technology, and education in the area of III-V bismide materials and devices for optoelectronic applications, the potential for which is very large.


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Description This grant was pivotal to develop international research in the area of bismide semiconductors. The work achieved two principle outcomes: Firstly, it established an international network on bismide semiconductors including an international workshop series now in its sixth year. Secondly, it led to an increased understanding of this class of semiconductors, and their potential for use in lasers for optical communications.
Exploitation Route The establishment of the bismide workshop series has now become a feature in the semiconductor community and is a lasting legacy of the work. The research itself is now being taken forward internationally with many new projects now started in Europe, the US, China and Japan. In Europe, the project led to the EU Framework 7 'BIANCHO' project of which the Surrey team were scientific leads on the development of devices.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description The findings have been used to develop an improved understanding of materials to use to make higher energy efficiency photonics components. This is of benefit to both the scientific community and industrial manufactures and end users of such technologies.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Arizona State University 
Organisation Arizona State University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
Start Year 2005
Description Marburg 
Organisation Philipp University of Marburg
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I established a collaboration with the Central Technology Laboratory to work on the development of semiconductor materials and devices.
Collaborator Contribution The partner has supplied material and devices for testing and has grown semiconductor samples to our specification.
Impact The outcomes are mainly in the form of joint publications, as listed against the appropriate grant.
Start Year 2009
Description Victoria 
Organisation University of Victoria
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I established the collaboration with Victoria owing to their expertise in bismuth-containing semiconductors. Our contribution to the collaboration was in the design of layer structures and characterisation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Collaborator Contribution Victoria provided a number of semiconductor wafers and devices for characterisation. They also provided valuable know how on novel semiconductors.
Impact The outcomes are mainly journal publications.
Start Year 2009
Title Light Emitting Semiconductor Device 
Description This patent concerns the use of bismuth containing alloys to produce high efficiency photonic devices. 
IP Reference US20120168816 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact This work has spawned a field of research and development in new materials for photonic devices. The applications include telecommunications and sensing.
Title Light Receiving Device 
Description This patent application concerns the use of novel III-V alloys for use in the development of high efficiency solar cells. 
IP Reference US20160149060 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed No
Impact This IP has led to research into new approaches for solar cell design and helped to stimulate a new research topic on photodetectors.