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A technology for low-resistance ohmic contacts to III nitrides is presented. The contacts employ polarization-induced electric fields in strained cap layers grown on lattice-mismatched III-nitride buffer layers. With appropriate choice of the cap layer, the electric field in the cap layer reduces the thickness of the tunnel barrier at the metal contact/semiconductor interface. Design rules for polarization-enhanced contacts are presented giving guidance for composition and thickness of the cap layer for different III-nitride buffer layers. Experimental results for ohmic contacts with p-type InGaN and GaN cap layers are markedly different from samples without a polarized cap layer thus confirming the effectiveness of polarization-enhanced ohmic contacts. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.