Proposes an easy and reproducible vapor-phase photo surface treatment method to improve the device performance of the Hg/sub 0.8/Cd/sub 0.2/Te photoconductive detector. We explore the effect of surface passivation on the electrical and optical properties of the HgCdTe photoconductor. Experimental results, including surface mobility, surface carrier concentration, metal-insulator-semiconductor leakage current, 1/f noise voltage spectrum, the 1/f knee frequency, responsivity R/sub /spl lambda//, and specific detectivity D* for stacked photo surface treatment and ZnS or CdTe passivation layers are presented. These data are all directly related to the quality of the interface between the passivation layer and the HgCdTe substrate. We found that, by inserting a photo native oxide layer, we can shift the 1/f knee frequency, reduce the noise power spectrum, and achieve a lower surface recombination velocity S. A higher D* can also be achieved. It was also found that HgCdTe photoconductors passivated with stacked layers show improved interface properties compared to the photoconductors passivated only with a single ZnS or CdTe layer.