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Light Emission and Ultrafast Carrier Dynamics in III-V Semiconductors from First Principles


Jhalani, Vatsal A. (2019) Light Emission and Ultrafast Carrier Dynamics in III-V Semiconductors from First Principles. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/9E0D-KX54.


The III-V semiconductors are a broad class of technologically important materials which have seen immense research interest in academia and industry due to their electronic, optoelectronic, and photovoltaic properties. In particular, GaN and the III-nitride family of wide bandgap semiconductors have emerged as promising candidates for the next generation of high-efficiency power electronics and light-emitting devices. Their device operation and macroscopic properties are governed by the dynamics of charge carriers and their microscopic scattering processes. Near room temperature, the carriers are scattered by lattice vibrations (phonons) at ultrafast timescales of order fs-ps. Microscopic understanding of carrier dynamics is challenging due to both the ultrafast time scale at play and to the presence of defects, interfaces, and impurities affecting transport and spectroscopy measurements. Typical theoretical treatments of carrier dynamics and light emission employ empirical models to interpret and fit experimental results. Over the last few years, so-called first-principles (or "ab initio") methods to accurately compute ultrafast carrier dynamics, transport, and light emission have seen a rapid rise. These approaches do not employ parameters from experiments, and using only the structure of the material as input, together with quantum mechanics and condensed matter theory, are enabling accurate predictions of carrier dynamics in a wide range of materials and are shedding light on microscopic details such as which electronic states, phonon modes and dissipative processes are responsible for the observed charge transport and light emission properties.

Here, we present first-principles calculations of different aspects of ultrafast carrier dynamics and light emission in III-V semiconductors of technological relevance, focusing on GaN, a key material for solid-state light emission technology. We first present a study of the ultrafast nonequilibrium dynamics of excited (so-called "hot") carriers in GaN, with a focus on electron-phonon scattering and the nanometer scale transport of carriers in GaN light emitting devices (LEDs). Using cutting-edge first-principles methods developed in this work, we find an asymmetry between the time scale of hot electron and hole thermalization which provides a possible explanation on a major open problem in the efficiency and energy losses of GaN LEDs. We then develop and apply a new rigorous first-principles approach for computing light emission and the radiative recombination lifetimes in bulk crystals, nanomaterials and isolated systems. Our approach is based on the Bethe-Salpeter equation (BSE), and it accurately includes excitons, namely electron-hole states bound by the Coulomb interaction that play a key role in light-matter interactions. Using this method, we carry out benchmark calculations of radiative lifetimes in GaAs and GaN. In GaN, our computed radiative lifetimes are in excellent agreement with experiment (within a factor of two), and our calculations further highlight the importance of including excitonic effects and spin-orbit coupling to obtain accurate radiative. We also employ a model to account for exciton thermal dissociation at high temperature, finding excellent agreement with spectroscopic measurements. Lastly, we discuss ongoing work on computing the intrinsic (phonon-limited) mobility in bulk GaN from first principles, focusing on efforts to include piezoelectric electron-phonon interactions, which are important for acoustic phonon modes in GaN. We compute the electron and hole mobilities in GaN and obtain excellent agreement with experiment. Our calculations shed light on which phonon modes scatter the carriers, providing new microscopic insight into charge carrier dynamics in GaN and related III-V semiconductors.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:first-principles; ab initio; carrier dynamics; ultrafast; light emission; semiconductors; electron-phonon; carrier transport; exciton; LED; hot carriers; DFT; BSE; DFPT;
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Applied Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Bernardi, Marco
Group:Resnick Sustainability Institute
Thesis Committee:
  • Minnich, Austin J. (chair)
  • Bernardi, Marco
  • Faraon, Andrei
  • Goddard, William A., III
Defense Date:31 May 2019
Non-Caltech Author Email:jhalanivatsal (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06062019-155629104
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for ch. 2 paper adapted for ch. 3
Jhalani, Vatsal A.0000-0003-0866-0858
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11697
Deposited By: Vatsal Jhalani
Deposited On:07 Jun 2019 22:15
Last Modified:12 Dec 2019 21:34

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