In recent years, phototransistors have considerably expanded their field of application, including for instance heterodyne detection and optical interconnects. Unlike in low-light imaging, some of these applications require fast photodetectors that can operate in relatively high light levels. Since the gain and bandwidth of phototransistors are not constant across different optical powers, the devices that have been optimized for operation in low light level cannot effectively be employed in different technological applications. We present an extensive study of the gain and bandwidth of short-wavelength infrared phototransistors as a function of optical power level for three device architectures that we designed and fabricated. The gain of the photodetectors is found to increase with increasing carrier injection. Based on a Shockley-Read-Hall recombination model, we show that this is due to the saturation of recombination centers in the phototransistor base layer. Eventually, at a higher light level, the gain drops, due to the Kirk effect. As a result of these opposing mechanisms, the gain-bandwidth product is peaked at a given power level, which depends on the device design and material parameters, such as doping and defect density. Guided by this physical understanding, we design and demonstrate a phototransistor which is capable of reaching a high gain-bandwidth product for high-speed applications. The proposed design criteria can be employed in conjunction with the engineering of the device size to achieve a wide tunability of the gain and bandwidth, hence paving the way toward fast photodetectors for applications with different light levels.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)