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Gallium nitride (GaN) is a binary III/V direct bandgap semiconductor that has been used commonly in light-emitting diodes since the 1990s. It is a hard material with a Wurtzite crystal structure and has a wide band gap of 3.4 eV which allows it to operate at high temperatures. GaN is also being used in transistors, RF components and lasers. It is particularly attractive for military and space applications as it has excellent stability in radiation environments.
All semiconductor materials have an energy range in which electrons can exist in a solid, known as a “bandgap.” The wider the gap, the easier it is to conduct electricity in a material. Gallium nitride has a much larger bandgap than silicon, allowing it to conduct current at higher voltages and temperatures.
Researchers have developed a process to produce a new type of luminescent gallium nitride powder. The improved GaN powders are light gray in color and contain a mixture of micro-crystals that have two different particle size distributions and a hexagonal structure (i.e., a wurtzite structure), as confirmed by scanning electron microscopy (“SEM”), high resolution transmission electron microscopy (“HRTEM”) and X-ray diffraction analysis (“XRD”). Cathodoluminescence (“CL”) and photoluminescence (“PL”) analyses also show that the improved GaN powders are extraordinarily luminescent.
The researchers report that the improved GaN powders can be produced in existing factories. This is important because it allows gallium nitride transistors to be made using the same processes that silicon MOSFETs are currently manufactured in, which will greatly reduce production costs.