Gallium arsenide

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Gallium arsenide
Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) 2" wafer.jpg
GaAs wafer of (100) orientation
Preferred IUPAC name
Gallium arsenide
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.013.741
EC Number
  • 215-114-8
MeSH gallium+arsenide
PubChem CID
RTECS number
  • LW8800000
UN number 1557
Molar mass 144.645 g/mol [1]
AppearanceGray crystals [1]
Odor garlic-like when moistened
Density 5.3176 g/cm3 [1]
Melting point 1,238 °C (2,260 °F; 1,511 K) [1]
Solubility soluble in HCl
insoluble in ethanol, methanol, acetone
Band gap 1.441 eV (at 300 K) [2]
Electron mobility 9000 cm2/(V·s) (at 300 K) [2]
-16.2×106 cgs [3]
Thermal conductivity 0.56 W/(cm·K) (at 300 K) [4]
3.3 [3]
Structure [4]
Zinc blende
a = 565.315 pm
Safety data sheet External MSDS
GHS pictograms GHS-pictogram-silhouette.svg
GHS Signal word Danger
H350, H372, H360F
P261, P273, P301+310, P311, P501
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
Flammability code 1: Must be pre-heated before ignition can occur. Flash point over 93 °C (200 °F). E.g. canola oilHealth code 3: Short exposure could cause serious temporary or residual injury. E.g. chlorine gasReactivity code 2: Undergoes violent chemical change at elevated temperatures and pressures, reacts violently with water, or may form explosive mixtures with water. E.g. white phosphorusSpecial hazard W: Reacts with water in an unusual or dangerous manner. E.g. sodium, sulfuric acidGallium arsenide
Related compounds
Other anions
Gallium nitride
Gallium phosphide
Gallium antimonide
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is a compound of the elements gallium and arsenic. It is a III-V direct band gap semiconductor with a zinc blende crystal structure.


Gallium arsenide is used in the manufacture of devices such as microwave frequency integrated circuits, monolithic microwave integrated circuits, infrared light-emitting diodes, laser diodes, solar cells and optical windows. [5]

GaAs is often used as a substrate material for the epitaxial growth of other III-V semiconductors, including indium gallium arsenide, aluminum gallium arsenide and others.

Preparation and chemistry

In the compound, gallium has a +3 oxidation state. Gallium arsenide single crystals can be prepared by three industrial processes: [5]

Alternative methods for producing films of GaAs include: [5] [7]

Oxidation of GaAs occurs in air, degrading performance of the semiconductor. The surface can be passivated by depositing a cubic gallium(II) sulfide layer using a tert-butyl gallium sulfide compound such as (t
. [8]

Semi-insulating crystals

In the presence of excess arsenic, GaAs boules grow with crystallographic defects; specifically, arsenic antisite defects (an arsenic atom at a gallium atom site within the crystal lattice). The electronic properties of these defects (interacting with others) cause the Fermi level to be pinned to near the center of the band gap, so that this GaAs crystal has very low concentration of electrons and holes. This low carrier concentration is similar to an intrinsic (perfectly undoped) crystal, but much easier to achieve in practice. These crystals are called "semi-insulating", reflecting their high resistivity of 107–109 Ω·cm (which is quite high for a semiconductor, but still much lower than a true insulator like glass). [9]


Wet etching of GaAs industrially uses an oxidizing agent such as hydrogen peroxide or bromine water, [10] and the same strategy has been described in a patent relating to processing scrap components containing GaAs where the Ga3+
is complexed with a hydroxamic acid ("HA"), for example: [11]

GaAs + H
+ "HA" → "GaA" complex + H
+ 4 H

This reaction produces arsenic acid.


GaAs digital logic

GaAs can be used for various transistor types: [12]

The HBT can be used in integrated injection logic (I2L). The earliest GaAs logic gate used Buffered FET Logic (BFL). [12]

From ~1975 to 1995 the main logic families used were: [12]

Comparison with silicon for electronics

GaAs advantages

Some electronic properties of gallium arsenide are superior to those of silicon. It has a higher saturated electron velocity and higher electron mobility, allowing gallium arsenide transistors to function at frequencies in excess of 250 GHz. GaAs devices are relatively insensitive to overheating, owing to their wider energy band gap, and they also tend to create less noise (disturbance in an electrical signal) in electronic circuits than silicon devices, especially at high frequencies. This is a result of higher carrier mobilities and lower resistive device parasitics. These superior properties are compelling reasons to use GaAs circuitry in mobile phones, satellite communications, microwave point-to-point links and higher frequency radar systems. It is also used in the manufacture of Gunn diodes for the generation of microwaves.

Another advantage of GaAs is that it has a direct band gap, which means that it can be used to absorb and emit light efficiently. Silicon has an indirect band gap and so is relatively poor at emitting light.

As a wide direct band gap material with resulting resistance to radiation damage, GaAs is an excellent material for outer space electronics and optical windows in high power applications.

Because of its wide band gap, pure GaAs is highly resistive. Combined with a high dielectric constant, this property makes GaAs a very good substrate for Integrated circuits and unlike Si provides natural isolation between devices and circuits. This has made it an ideal material for monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs), where active and essential passive components can readily be produced on a single slice of GaAs.

One of the first GaAs microprocessors was developed in the early 1980s by the RCA corporation and was considered for the Star Wars program of the United States Department of Defense. These processors were several times faster and several orders of magnitude more radiation resistant than their silicon counterparts, but were more expensive. [14] Other GaAs processors were implemented by the supercomputer vendors Cray Computer Corporation, Convex, and Alliant in an attempt to stay ahead of the ever-improving CMOS microprocessor. Cray eventually built one GaAs-based machine in the early 1990s, the Cray-3, but the effort was not adequately capitalized, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1995.

Complex layered structures of gallium arsenide in combination with aluminium arsenide (AlAs) or the alloy AlxGa1−xAs can be grown using molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) or using metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy (MOVPE). Because GaAs and AlAs have almost the same lattice constant, the layers have very little induced strain, which allows them to be grown almost arbitrarily thick. This allows extremely high performance and high electron mobility HEMT transistors and other quantum well devices.

Concerns over GaAs's susceptibility to heat damage have been raised, but it has been speculated that certain manufacturers would benefit from such limitations, considering the planned obsolescence cycle that many consumer electronics are designed to follow. [15]

Silicon advantages

Silicon has three major advantages over GaAs for integrated circuit manufacture. First, silicon is abundant and cheap to process in the form of silicate minerals. The economies of scale available to the silicon industry has also hindered the adoption of GaAs.

In addition, a Si crystal has a very stable structure and can be grown to very large diameter boules and processed with very good yields. It is also a fairly good thermal conductor, thus enabling very dense packing of transistors that need to get rid of their heat of operation, all very desirable for design and manufacturing of very large ICs. Such good mechanical characteristics also make it a suitable material for the rapidly developing field of nanoelectronics. Naturally, a GaAs surface cannot withstand the high temperatures needed for diffusion; however a viable and actively pursued alternative as of the 1980s was ion implantation. [16]

The second major advantage of Si is the existence of a native oxide (silicon dioxide, SiO2), which is used as an insulator. Silicon dioxide can be incorporated onto silicon circuits easily, and such layers are adherent to the underlying silicon. SiO2 is not only a good insulator (with a band gap of 8.9 eV), but the Si-SiO2 interface can be easily engineered to have excellent electrical properties, most importantly low density of interface states. GaAs does not have a native oxide, does not easily support a stable adherent insulating layer, and does not possess the dielectric strength or surface passivating qualities of the Si-SiO2. [16]

Aluminum oxide (Al2O3) has been extensively studied as a possible gate oxide for GaAs (as well as InGaAs).

The third advantage of silicon is that it possesses a higher hole mobility compared to GaAs (500 versus 400 cm2V−1s−1). [17] This high mobility allows the fabrication of higher-speed P-channel field effect transistors, which are required for CMOS logic. Because they lack a fast CMOS structure, GaAs circuits must use logic styles which have much higher power consumption; this has made GaAs logic circuits unable to compete with silicon logic circuits.

For manufacturing solar cells, silicon has relatively low absorptivity for sunlight, meaning about 100 micrometers of Si is needed to absorb most sunlight. Such a layer is relatively robust and easy to handle. In contrast, the absorptivity of GaAs is so high that only a few micrometers of thickness are needed to absorb all of the light. Consequently, GaAs thin films must be supported on a substrate material. [18]

Silicon is a pure element, avoiding the problems of stoichiometric imbalance and thermal unmixing of GaAs.[ citation needed ]

Silicon has a nearly perfect lattice; impurity density is very low and allows very small structures to be built (currently down to 16 nm [19] ). In contrast, GaAs has a very high impurity density,[ citation needed ] which makes it difficult to build integrated circuits with small structures, so the 500 nm process is a common process for GaAs.[ citation needed ]

Other applications

Triple-junction GaAs cells covering MidSTAR-1 MidSTAR-1.jpg
Triple-junction GaAs cells covering MidSTAR-1

Solar cells and detectors

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is an important semiconductor material for high-cost, high-efficiency solar cells and is used for single-crystalline thin film solar cells and for multi-junction solar cells.

The first known operational use of GaAs solar cells in space was for the Venera 3 mission, launched in 1965. The GaAs solar cells, manufactured by Kvant, were chosen because of their higher performance in high temperature environments. [20] GaAs cells were then used for the Lunokhod rovers for the same reason.

In 1970, the GaAs heterostructure solar cells were developed by the team led by Zhores Alferov in the USSR, [21] [22] [23] achieving much higher efficiencies. In the early 1980s, the efficiency of the best GaAs solar cells surpassed that of conventional, crystalline silicon-based solar cells. In the 1990s, GaAs solar cells took over from silicon as the cell type most commonly used for photovoltaic arrays for satellite applications. Later, dual- and triple-junction solar cells based on GaAs with germanium and indium gallium phosphide layers were developed as the basis of a triple-junction solar cell, which held a record efficiency of over 32% and can operate also with light as concentrated as 2,000 suns. This kind of solar cell powered the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which explored Mars' surface. Also many solar cars utilize GaAs in solar arrays.

GaAs-based devices hold the world record for the highest-efficiency single-junction solar cell at 29.1% (as of 2019). This high efficiency is attributed to the extreme high quality GaAs epitaxial growth, surface passivation by the AlGaAs, [24] and the promotion of photon recycling by the thin film design. [25]

Complex designs of AlxGa1−xAs-GaAs devices using quantum wells can be sensitive to infrared radiation (QWIP).

GaAs diodes can be used for the detection of X-rays. [26]

Light-emission devices

Band structure of GaAs. The direct gap of GaAs results in efficient emission of infrared light at 1.424 eV (~870 nm). Bandstruktur GaAs en.svg
Band structure of GaAs. The direct gap of GaAs results in efficient emission of infrared light at 1.424 eV (~870 nm).

GaAs has been used to produce near-infrared laser diodes since 1962. [27]

Fiber optic temperature measurement

For this purpose an optical fiber tip of an optical fiber temperature sensor is equipped with a gallium arsenide crystal. Starting at a light wavelength of 850 nm GaAs becomes optically translucent. Since the spectral position of the band gap is temperature dependent, it shifts about 0.4 nm/K. The measurement device contains a light source and a device for the spectral detection of the band gap. With the changing of the band gap, (0.4 nm/K) an algorithm calculates the temperature (all 250 ms). [28]

Spin-charge converters

GaAs may have applications in spintronics as it can be used instead of platinum in spin-charge converters and may be more tunable. [29]


The environment, health and safety aspects of gallium arsenide sources (such as trimethylgallium and arsine) and industrial hygiene monitoring studies of metalorganic precursors have been reported. [30] California lists gallium arsenide as a carcinogen, [31] as do IARC and ECA, [32] and it is considered a known carcinogen in animals. [33] [34] On the other hand, a 2013 review (funded by industry) argued against these classifications, saying that when rats or mice inhale fine GaAs powders (as in previous studies), they get cancer from the resulting lung irritation and inflammation, rather than from a primary carcinogenic effect of the GaAs itself—and that, moreover, fine GaAs powders are unlikely to be created in the production or use of GaAs. [32]

See also

Related Research Articles

A semiconductor material has an electrical conductivity value falling between that of a conductor, such as metallic copper, and an insulator, such as glass. Its resistance falls as its temperature rises; metals are the opposite. Its conducting properties may be altered in useful ways by introducing impurities ("doping") into the crystal structure. Where two differently-doped regions exist in the same crystal, a semiconductor junction is created. The behavior of charge carriers which include electrons, ions and electron holes at these junctions is the basis of diodes, transistors and all modern electronics. Some examples of semiconductors are silicon, germanium, gallium arsenide, and elements near the so-called "metalloid staircase" on the periodic table. After silicon, gallium arsenide is the second most common semiconductor and is used in laser diodes, solar cells, microwave-frequency integrated circuits and others. Silicon is a critical element for fabricating most electronic circuits.

Transistor Basic electronics component

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.

A semiconductor device is an electronic component that relies on the electronic properties of a semiconductor material for its function. Semiconductor devices have replaced vacuum tubes in most applications. They use electrical conduction in the solid state rather than the gaseous state or thermionic emission in a vacuum.

Monolithic microwave integrated circuit

Monolithic microwave integrated circuit, or MMIC, is a type of integrated circuit (IC) device that operates at microwave frequencies. These devices typically perform functions such as microwave mixing, power amplification, low-noise amplification, and high-frequency switching. Inputs and outputs on MMIC devices are frequently matched to a characteristic impedance of 50 ohms. This makes them easier to use, as cascading of MMICs does not then require an external matching network. Additionally, most microwave test equipment is designed to operate in a 50-ohm environment.

Gallium nitride chemical compound

Gallium nitride (GaN) is a binary III/V direct bandgap semiconductor commonly used in light-emitting diodes since the 1990s. The compound is a very hard material that has a Wurtzite crystal structure. Its wide band gap of 3.4 eV affords it special properties for applications in optoelectronic, high-power and high-frequency devices. For example, GaN is the substrate which makes violet (405 nm) laser diodes possible, without use of nonlinear optical frequency-doubling.

Indium phosphide chemical compound

Indium phosphide (InP) is a binary semiconductor composed of indium and phosphorus. It has a face-centered cubic ("zincblende") crystal structure, identical to that of GaAs and most of the III-V semiconductors.

SiGe, or silicon-germanium, is an alloy with any molar ratio of silicon and germanium, i.e. with a molecular formula of the form Si1−xGex. It is commonly used as a semiconductor material in integrated circuits (ICs) for heterojunction bipolar transistors or as a strain-inducing layer for CMOS transistors. IBM introduced the technology into mainstream manufacturing in 1989. This relatively new technology offers opportunities in mixed-signal circuit and analog circuit IC design and manufacture. SiGe is also used as a thermoelectric material for high temperature applications.

A MESFET is a field-effect transistor semiconductor device similar to a JFET with a Schottky (metal-semiconductor) junction instead of a p-n junction for a gate.

High-electron-mobility transistor

A high-electron-mobility transistor (HEMT), also known as heterostructure FET (HFET) or modulation-doped FET (MODFET), is a field-effect transistor incorporating a junction between two materials with different band gaps as the channel instead of a doped region. A commonly used material combination is GaAs with AlGaAs, though there is wide variation, dependent on the application of the device. Devices incorporating more indium generally show better high-frequency performance, while in recent years, gallium nitride HEMTs have attracted attention due to their high-power performance. Like other FETs, HEMTs are used in integrated circuits as digital on-off switches. FETs can also be used as amplifiers for large amounts of current using a small voltage as a control signal. Both of these uses are made possible by the FET’s unique current–voltage characteristics. HEMT transistors are able to operate at higher frequencies than ordinary transistors, up to millimeter wave frequencies, and are used in high-frequency products such as cell phones, satellite television receivers, voltage converters, and radar equipment. They are widely used in satellite receivers, in low power amplifiers and in the defense industry.

In semiconductor production, doping is the intentional introduction of impurities into an intrinsic semiconductor for the purpose of modulating its electrical, optical and structural properties. The doped material is referred to as an extrinsic semiconductor. A semiconductor doped to such high levels that it acts more like a conductor than a semiconductor is referred to as a degenerate semiconductor.

The heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) is a type of bipolar junction transistor (BJT) which uses differing semiconductor materials for the emitter and base regions, creating a heterojunction. The HBT improves on the BJT in that it can handle signals of very high frequencies, up to several hundred GHz. It is commonly used in modern ultrafast circuits, mostly radio-frequency (RF) systems, and in applications requiring a high power efficiency, such as RF power amplifiers in cellular phones. The idea of employing a heterojunction is as old as the conventional BJT, dating back to a patent from 1951. Detailed theory of heterojunction bipolar transistor was developed by Herbert Kroemer in 1957.

Indium gallium phosphide (InGaP), also called gallium indium phosphide (GaInP), is a semiconductor composed of indium, gallium and phosphorus. It is used in high-power and high-frequency electronics because of its superior electron velocity with respect to the more common semiconductors silicon and gallium arsenide.

Indium gallium nitride chemical compound

Indium gallium nitride is a semiconductor material made of a mix of gallium nitride (GaN) and indium nitride (InN). It is a ternary group III/group V direct bandgap semiconductor. Its bandgap can be tuned by varying the amount of indium in the alloy. InxGa1−xN has a direct bandgap span from the infrared for InN to the ultraviolet of GaN. The ratio of In/Ga is usually between 0.02/0.98 and 0.3/0.7.

Indium arsenide chemical compound

Indium arsenide, InAs, or indium monoarsenide, is a semiconductor composed of indium and arsenic. It has the appearance of grey cubic crystals with a melting point of 942 °C.

Aluminium gallium indium phosphide is a semiconductor material that provides a platform for the development of novel multi-junction photovoltaics and optoelectronic devices, as it spans a direct bandgap from deep ultraviolet to infrared.

Gallium indium arsenide antimonide phosphide is a semiconductor material.

IQE is a British semiconductor company founded 1988 in Cardiff, Wales which manufactures advanced epitaxial wafers for a wide range of technology applications for wireless, optoelectronic, electronic and solar devices. IQE specialises in advanced silicon and compound semiconductor materials based on gallium arsenide (GaAs), indium phosphide (InP), gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon. The company is the largest independent outsource producer of epiwafers manufactured by metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy (MOCVD), molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD).

Mohamed M. Atalla mechanical engineer

Mohamed Mohamed Atalla was an Egyptian–American engineer, physical chemist, cryptographer, inventor and entrepreneur. His pioneering work in semiconductor technology laid the foundations for modern electronics. Most importantly, his invention of the MOSFET in 1959, along with his earlier surface passivation and thermal oxidation processes, revolutionized the electronics industry. He is also known as the founder of the data security company Atalla Corporation, founded in 1972, which introduced the first hardware security module and was a pioneer in online security. He received the Stuart Ballantine Medal and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his important contributions to semiconductor technology as well as data security.


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