The wide bandgap semiconductors SiC and GaN are already commercialized as power devices that are used in the automotive, wireless, and industrial power markets, but their adoption into space and avionic applications is hindered by their susceptibility to permanent degradation and catastrophic failure from heavy-ion exposure. Efforts to space-qualify these wide bandgap power devices have revealed that they are susceptible to damage from the high-energy, heavy-ion space radiation environment (galactic cosmic rays) that cannot be shielded. In space-simulated conditions, GaN and SiC transistors have shown failure susceptibility at ∼50% of their nominal rated voltage. Similarly, SiC transistors are susceptible to radiation damage-induced degradation or failure under heavy-ion single-event effects testing conditions, reducing their utility in the space galactic cosmic ray environment. In SiC-based Schottky diodes, catastrophic single-event burnout (SEB) and other single-event effects (SEE) have been observed at ∼40% of the rated operating voltage, as well as an unacceptable degradation in leakage current at ∼20% of the rated operating voltage. The ultra-wide bandgap semiconductors Ga2O3, diamond and BN are also being explored for their higher power and higher operating temperature capabilities in power electronics and for solar-blind UV detectors. Ga2O3 appears to be more resistant to displacement damage than GaN and SiC, as expected from a consideration of their average bond strengths. Diamond, a highly radiation-resistant material, is considered a nearly ideal material for radiation detection, particularly in high-energy physics applications. The response of diamond to radiation exposure depends strongly on the nature of the growth (natural vs chemical vapor deposition), but overall, diamond is radiation hard up to several MGy of photons and electrons, up to 1015 (neutrons and high energetic protons) cm-2 and >1015 pions cm-2. BN is also radiation-hard to high proton and neutron doses, but h-BN undergoes a transition from sp2 to sp3 hybridization as a consequence of the neutron induced damage with formation of c-BN. Much more basic research is needed on the response of both the wide and ultra-wide bandgap semiconductors to radiation, especially single event effects.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials