Effective surface passivation of InP nanowires by atomic-layer-deposited Al2O3 with POx interlayer

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III/V semiconductor nanostructures have significant potential in device applications, but effective surface passivation is critical due to their large surface-to-volume ratio. For InP such passivation has proven particularly difficult, with substantial depassivation generally observed following dielectric deposition on InP surfaces. We present a novel approach based on passivation with a phosphorus-rich interfacial oxide deposited using a low-temperature process, which is critical to avoid P-desorption. For this purpose we have chosen a POx layer deposited in a plasma-assisted atomic layer deposition (ALD) system at room temperature. Since POx is known to be hygroscopic and therefore unstable in atmosphere, we encapsulate this layer with a thin ALD Al2O3 capping layer to form a POx/Al2O3 stack. This passivation scheme is capable of improving the photoluminescence (PL) efficiency of our state-of-the-art wurtzite (WZ) InP nanowires by a factor of ∼20 at low excitation. If we apply the rate equation analysis advocated by some authors, we derive a PL internal quantum efficiency (IQE) of 75% for our passivated wires at high excitation. Our results indicate that it is more reliable to calculate the IQE as the ratio of the integrated PL intensity at room temperature to that at 10 K. By this means we derive an IQE of 27% for the passivated wires at high excitation (>10 kW cm-2), which constitutes an unprecedented level of performance for undoped InP nanowires. This conclusion is supported by time-resolved PL decay lifetimes, which are also shown to be significantly higher than previously reported for similar wires. The passivation scheme displays excellent long-term stability (>7 months) and is additionally shown to substantially improve the thermal stability of InP surfaces (>300 °C), significantly expanding the temperature window for device processing. Such effective surface passivation is a key enabling technology for InP nanowire devices such as nanolasers and solar cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6287-6294
Number of pages8
JournalNano Letters
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2017


  • atomic layer deposition
  • Indium phosphide
  • photoluminescence
  • semiconductor nanowires
  • surface passivation

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