A Caltech Library Service

Spontaneous and Stimulated Light Emission due to Radiative Recombination in Forward Biased Lead Telluride P-N Junctions


Zoutendyk, Peter John Andrew (1968) Spontaneous and Stimulated Light Emission due to Radiative Recombination in Forward Biased Lead Telluride P-N Junctions. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/AK38-EQ82.


Since the discovery in 1962 of laser action in semiconductor diodes made from GaAs, the study of spontaneous and stimulated light emission from semiconductors has become an exciting new field of semiconductor physics and quantum electronics combined. Included in the limited number of direct-gap semiconductor materials suitable for laser action are the members of the lead salt family, i.e . PbS, PbSe and PbTe. The material used for the experiments described herein is PbTe . The semiconductor PbTe is a narrow band- gap material (Eg = 0.19 electron volt at a temperature of 4.2°K). Therefore, the radiative recombination of electron-hole pairs between the conduction and valence bands produces photons whose wavelength is in the infrared (λ ≈ 6.5 microns in air).

The p-n junction diode is a convenient device in which the spontaneous and stimulated emission of light can be achieved via current flow in the forward-bias direction. Consequently, the experimental devices consist of a group of PbTe p-n junction diodes made from p –type single crystal bulk material. The p - n junctions were formed by an n-type vapor- phase diffusion perpendicular to the (100) plane, with a junction depth of approximately 75 microns. Opposite ends of the diode structure were cleaved to give parallel reflectors, thereby forming the Fabry-Perot cavity needed for a laser oscillator. Since the emission of light originates from the recombination of injected current carriers, the nature of the radiation depends on the injection mechanism.

The total intensity of the light emitted from the PbTe diodes was observed over a current range of three to four orders of magnitude. At the low current levels, the light intensity data were correlated with data obtained on the electrical characteristics of the diodes. In the low current region (region A), the light intensity, current-voltage and capacitance-voltage data are consistent with the model for photon-assisted tunneling. As the current is increased, the light intensity data indicate the occurrence of a change in the current injection mechanism from photon-assisted tunneling (region A) to thermionic emission (region B). With the further increase of the injection level, the photon-field due to light emission in the diode builds up to the point where stimulated emission (oscillation) occurs. The threshold current at which oscillation begins marks the beginning of a region (region C) where the total light intensity increases very rapidly with the increase in current. This rapid increase in intensity is accompanied by an increase in the number of narrow-band oscillating modes. As the photon density in the cavity continues to increase with the injection level, the intensity gradually enters a region of linear dependence on current (region D), i.e. a region of constant (differential) quantum efficiency.

Data obtained from measurements of the stimulated-mode light-intensity profile and the far-field diffraction pattern (both in the direction perpendicular to the junction-plane) indicate that the active region of high gain (i.e. the region where a population inversion exists) extends to approximately a diffusion length on both sides of the junction. The data also indicate that the confinement of the oscillating modes within the diode cavity is due to a variation in the real part of the dielectric constant, caused by the gain in the medium. A value of τ ≈ 10-9 second for the minority- carrier recombination lifetime (at a diode temperature of 20.4°K) is obtained from the above measurements. This value for τ is consistent with other data obtained independently for PbTe crystals.

Data on the threshold current for stimulated emission (for a diode temperature of 20. 4°K) as a function of the reciprocal cavity length were obtained. These data yield a value of J’th = (400 ± 80) amp/cm2 for the threshold current in the limit of an infinitely long diode-cavity. A value of α = (30 ± 15) cm-1 is obtained for the total (bulk) cavity loss constant, in general agreement with independent measurements of free- carrier absorption in PbTe. In addition, the data provide a value of ns ≈ 10% for the internal spontaneous quantum efficiency. The above value for ns yields values of tb ≈ τ ≈ 10-9 second and ts ≈ 10-8 second for the nonradiative and the spontaneous (radiative) lifetimes, respectively.

The external quantum efficiency (nd) for stimulated emission from diode J-2 (at 20.4° K) was calculated by using the total light intensity vs. diode current data, plus accepted values for the material parameters of the mercury- doped germanium detector used for the measurements. The resulting value is nd ≃ 10%-20% for emission from both ends of the cavity. The corresponding radiative power output (at λ = 6.5 micron) is 120-240 milliwatts for a diode current of 6 amps.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Engineering
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Engineering
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Research Advisor(s):
  • Yariv, Amnon
Thesis Committee:
  • Yariv, Amnon
Defense Date:26 April 1968
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Office of Naval Research (ONR)220(50)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:01042016-150017432
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemElectron Tube and Microwave Laboratory Technical Report
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9356
Deposited By: Leslie Granillo
Deposited On:05 Jan 2016 00:18
Last Modified:14 May 2019 19:16

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page