High Performance Quantum Cascade Lasers: Loss, Beam Stability, and Gain Engineering

by Pierre Bouzi

Institution: Princeton University
Department: Electrical Engineering
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Beam Streering; Interface Roughness; Quantum Cascade Laser; Transparency Current; Transverse Mode Control; Waveguide Loss; Electrical engineering; Optics; Physics
Record ID: 2062644
Full text PDF: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01cv43p0047


Quantum Cascade (QC) lasers are semiconductor devices emitting in the mid-infrared (3-30 micron) and terahertz (30-300 micron) regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Since their first demonstration by Jerome Faist et. al. in 1994, they have evolved very quickly into high performance devices and given rise to many applications such as trace-gas sensing, medical diagnosis, free-space communication, and light detection and ranging (LIDAR). In this thesis, we investigate a further increase of the performance of QC devices and, through meticulous device modeling and characterizations, gain a deeper understanding of several of their unique characteristics, especially their carrier transport and lifetime, their characteristic temperature, their waveguide loss and modal gain, their leakage current, and their transverse mode profile. First, in our quest to achieve higher performance, we investigate the effect of growth asymmetries on device transport characteristics. This investigation stems from recent studies on the role of interface roughness on intersubband scattering and device performance. Through a symmetric active core design, we find that interface roughness and ionized impurity scattering induced by dopant migration play a significant role in carrier transport through the device. Understanding how interface roughness affects intersubband scattering, in turn, we engineer the gain in QC devices by placing monolayer barriers at specific locations within the device band structure. These strategically placed additional thin barrier layers introduce roughness scattering into the device active region, thereby selectively decreasing the lower laser state lifetime and increasing population inversion necessary for laser action. Preliminary measurement results from modified devices reveal a 50% decrease in the emission broadening compared to the control structures, which should lead to a two-fold increase in gain. A special class of so-called "strong coupling" QC lasers recently emerged with high optical power and high efficiency at cryogenic temperatures. However their performances decay rather rapidly with temperature in both pulsed and continuous wave modes. Through detailed measurements and analysis, we investigate several possible causes of this shortcoming and propose design modifications for temperature performance improvement. While the strong coupling devices are efficient and powerful, their performance often suffers from unintentional and potentially harmful beam steering at high power. Here, we identify the root of this pointing instability to be from non-linear interactions between multiple transverse modes. And, to resolve this issue, we employ focused ion beam (FIB) milling to etch small lateral constrictions on top of the devices and fill them with metal. This has the effect of greatly reducing the intensity of higher order transverse modes as they propagate through the cavity. A good grasp of the microscopic details involved in QC device operations will result in…