Directly correlated microscopy of trench defects in InGaN quantum wells

T.J. O'Hanlon, F C-P. Massabuau, A. Bao, M.J. Kappers, R.A. Oliver

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Directly correlated measurements of the surface morphology, light emission and subsurface structure and composition were carried out on the exact same nanoscale trench defects in InGaN quantum well (QW) structures. Multiple scanning probe, scanning electron and transmission electron microscopy techniques were used to explain the origin of their unusual emission behaviour and the relationship between surface morphology and cathodoluminescence (CL) redshift. Trench defects comprise of an open trench partially or fully enclosing material in InGaN QWs with different CL emission properties to their surroundings. The CL redshift was shown to typically vary with the width of the trench and the prominence of the material enclosed by the trench above its surroundings. Three defects, encompassing typical and atypical features, were prepared into lamellae for transmission electron microscopy (TEM). A cross marker technique was used in the focused ion beam-scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) to centre the previously characterised defects in each lamella for further analysis. The defects with wider trenches and strong redshifts in CL emission had their initiating basal-plane stacking fault (BSF) towards the bottom of the QW stack, while the BSF formed near the top of the QW stack for a defect with a narrow trench and minimal redshift. The raised-centre, prominent defect showed a slight increase in QW thickness moving up the QW stack while QW widths in the level-centred defect remained broadly constant. The indium content of the enclosed QWs increased above the BSF positions up to a maximum, with an increase of approximately 4% relative to the surroundings seen for one defect examined. Gross fluctuations in QW width (GWWFs) were present in the surrounding material in this sample but were not seen in QWs enclosed by the defect volumes. These GWWFs have been linked with indium loss from surface step edges two or more monolayers high, and many surface step edges appear pinned by the open trenches, suggesting another reason for the higher indium content seen in QWs enclosed by trench defects.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113255
Early online date11 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Gallium nitride
  • trench defect
  • quantum well
  • multi-microscopy
  • sample preparation
  • properties correlation


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