Laser Spike Annealing for Dopant Activation

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New York
Project Term:
09/15/2017 - 03/31/2021

Critical Need:

Electricity generation currently accounts for ~40% of primary energy consumption in the U.S. and continues to be the fastest growing form of end-use energy. Power electronics are responsible for controlling and converting electrical power to provide optimal conditions for transmission, distribution, and load-side consumption. By 2030 as much as 80% of all electricity could pass through some form of power electronics. Applications for power electronics are widespread and include uses in power supplies, motor drives, grid applications, data centers, and distributed energy resources. Today, most power electronics are based on silicon semiconductor devices that have reached their efficiency limits at high power and frequency, due to the material limitations of silicon. Wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) have superior electrical conductivity, breakdown properties, and switching speed. This allows for power converters with much improved efficiencies over silicon - while also dramatically reducing system size, weight, and form factor. Power semiconductor devices overwhelmingly use vertical architectures to realize high breakdown voltage (>1200V) and current levels, without having to enlarge chip size. The vertical architectures require the ability to add specific impurities to selected regions of a semiconductor to produce negative (n-type) and positive (p-type) electrical conduction, a process called doping. Currently, no doping process exists to form selective p-type regions in GaN. This is the major barrier to realization of GaN based vertical power electronic devices. The development of a selective p-type doping process will enable vertical GaN device architectures and unlock the potential of using the WBG semiconductor GaN in power electronics.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Advanced doping methods are required to realize the potential of gallium nitride (GaN)-based devices for future high efficiency, high power applications. Ion implantation is a doping process used in other semiconductor materials such as Si and GaAs but has been difficult to use in GaN due to the limited ability to perform a damage recovery anneal in GaN. JR2J will develop an innovative laser spike annealing technique to activate implanted dopants in GaN. Laser spike annealing is a high-temperature (above 1300 ºC) heat treatment technique that activates the dopants in GaN and repairs damage done during the implantation process. By keeping the laser spike duration very short (0.1-100 milliseconds), the technique is hypothesized to be short enough to avoid degradation of the GaN lattice itself. There are commercially available laser spike annealing systems, typically used in Si-based processes, which should be able to be adapted to annealing GaN substrates with small modifications. If the proof of concept is achieved, this could provide a fast road to commercialization.

Potential Impact:

If successful, PNDIODES projects will enable further development of a new class of power converters suitable in a broad range of application areas including automotive, industrial, residential, transportation (rail & ship), aerospace, and utilities.


More energy efficient power electronics could improve the efficiency of the U.S. power sector. They could also significantly improve the reliability and security of the electrical grid.


More efficient power use may help reduce power-related emissions. Low-cost and highly efficient power electronics could also lead to increased adoption of electric vehicles and greater integration of renewable power sources.


Improved power electronics could yield a significant reduction in U.S. electricity consumption, saving American families and businesses money on their power bills.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Isik Kizilyalli
Project Contact:
Dr. Richard Brown
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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