Nitride-based semiconductor materials make it possible to fabricate optoelectronic devices that operate in the whole electromagnetic range, since the band gaps of these compounds can be modified by doping. Among these materials, the sp2-hybridized boron nitride has properties that make it a potential candidate for integration in devices operating in the short-wavelength limit, under harsh environment conditions, due to the strength of the B-N bond. Nevertheless, this binary compound has been the less studied material among the nitrides, due to the lack of complete control on the growth process.
This thesis is focused on the study of the optical properties of sp2-hybridized boron nitride grown by hot-wall chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method, at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, at Linköping University, Sweden. The samples received for this study were grown on c-plane aluminum nitride as the buffer layer, which in turn was grown by nitridation on c- plane oriented sapphire, as the substrate material. The first objective of the research presented in this thesis was the development of a suitable ellipsometry model in a spectral region ranging from the infrared to the ultraviolet zones of the electromagnetic spectrum, with the aim of obtaining in the process optical properties such as the index of refraction, the energy of the fundamental electronic interband transition, the frequencies for the optical vibrational modes of the crystal lattice, as well as their broadenings, and the numerical values of the dielectric constants; and on the other hand, structural parameters such as the layers thicknesses, and examine the possibility of the presence of roughness or porosity on the boron nitride layer, which may affect the optical properties, by incorporating their effects into the model. The determination of these parameters, and their relation with the growth process, is important for the future adequate design of heterostructure-based devices that incorporate this material. In particular, emphasis has been put on the modeling of the polar lattice resonance contributions, with the TO- LO model, by using infrared spectroscopic ellipsometry as the characterization technique to study the phonon behavior, in the aforementioned spectral region, of the boron nitride. On the other hand, spectroscopic ellipsometry in the visible-ultraviolet spectral range was used to study the behavior of the material, by combining a Cauchy model, including an Urbach tail for the absorption edge, and a Lorentz oscillator in order to account for the absorption in the material in the UV zone. This first step on the research project was carried out at Linköping University.
The second objective in the research project was to carry out additional studies on the samples received, in order to complement the information provided by the ellipsometry model and to improve the model itself, provided that it was possible. The characterization techniques used were X-ray diffraction, which made it possible to confirm that in fact boron nitride was present in the samples studied, and made it possible to verify the crystalline quality of the aforementioned samples, and in turn relate it to the quality of the ellipsometry spectra previously obtained; the Raman spectroscopy made it possible to further verify and compare the crystalline qualities of the samples received, as well as to obtain the frequency for the Raman active B-N stretching vibration in the basal plane, and to compare this value with that corresponding to the bulk sp2-boron nitride; scanning electron microscopy made it possible to observe the rough surface morphologies of the samples and thus relate them to some of the conclusions derived from the ellipsometry model; and finally cathodoluminescence measurements carried out at low temperature (4 K) allowed to obtain a broad band emission, on all the samples studied, which could be related to native defects inside the boron nitride layers, i.e., boron vacancies. Nevertheless, no trace of a free carrier recombination was observed. Considering that the hexagonal-boron nitride is nowadays considered to be a direct band gap semiconductor, it may be indirectly concluded, in principle, that the dominant phase present in the samples studied was the rhombohedral polytype. Moreover, it can be tentatively concluded that the lack of an observable interband recombination may be due to the indirect band gap nature of the rhombohedral phase of the boron nitride. Spectroscopic ellipsometry does not give a definite answer regarding this issue either, because the samples analyzed were crystalline by nature, thus not being possible to use mathematical expressions for the dielectric function models that incorporate the band gap value as a fitting parameter. Therefore, the nature of the band gap emission in the rhombohedral phase of the boron nitride is still an open research question. On the other hand, luminescent emissions originating from radiative excitonic recombinations were not observed in the cathodoluminescence spectra. This second step of the project was carried out at the Leroy Eyring Center for Solid State Science at Arizona State University.