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An accurate correspondence between the local optical responses and the structures of semiconductor light‐emitting devices is demonstrated by using an illumination‐mode photon scanning tunneling microscope with noncontact atomic force microscope technique. We study the novel‐structured lateral p‐n junctions grown on patterned GaAs(111)A substrate. Measuring the spatially resolved photoluminescence spectra with a 200 nm apertured probe, we precisely determine the position and the width of the transition region of p‐n junctions. The illumination‐collection hybrid mode is also employed to map the two‐dimensional emission efficiency with higher resolution, which is not affected by carrier diffusion. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.