Nitride research may lead to new microelectronic technology and devices

WASHINGTON. A group of scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) has continued to push forward with research regarding gallium nitride (GaN) technology for radio-frequency (RF) wireless technology and recently made an breakthrough in the ability to grow thin films of a transition metal nitride called niobium nitride (Nb2N).

While the thin crystalline material has a similar structure to GaN, its electrical and physical properties are dramatically different: For example, Nb2N is metallic instead of semiconducting and can become superconductive at cryogenic temperatures. Another unique property of the new material is how it dissolves away in a reactive gas, while leaving nearby GaN electronics untouched.

By inserting a thin layer of Nb2N between a GaN transistor, LED, or circuit and the substrate the material is grown on, the team can perform a patent-pending lift-off technique, which allows it to be transferred onto nearly anything.

Dr. David Meyer, NRL section head for wide bandgap materials and devices in the Electronics Science and Technology Division, says of the niobium nitride gains: “We have this method and it’s really flexible. We anticipate that there are several applications that would benefit from having GaN technology integrated at the device or circuit level.”

During the 1990s, the Navy and other defense agencies invested a large amount of funding in basic research of GaN technology for RF technology, which has paid off: Over the past several years, GaN has graduated from the research lab and is now used in military systems such as the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) and Next Generation Jammer.

For more information on the use of nitrides, read the article in Compound Semiconductor magazine.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) researchers have developed a patent pending technique using niobium nitride that allows (GaN) to be transferred onto almost anything. Source: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

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