Advances in infrared photodetector based instrumentation technologies present significant development opportunities across a broad range of industries and applications. From security, health care and biosensing, to food plan analysis, geospatial mapping, petroleum exploration and intelligent transport, infrared photodetectors are the core components of modern light detecting instrumentation and play a key role in all the above applications.
Despite this versatility, limitations also exist in relation to these devices. The majority of commercial infrared photodetectors that currently dominate the marketplace are based on either HgCdTe (MCT) or III-V semiconductor materials in planar geometry. Such photodetectors are reliant upon cryogenic operation and are both costly and difficult to manufacture. In addition, significant challenges also exist around the use of these conventional materials and planar geometry to manufacture large focal plane arrays (FPA).
Photodetectors based on InAsSb semiconductor materials incorporated into a single-crystal nanowire morphology are expected to circumvent the above challenges and in so doing, present opportunities for the development of photodetectors with significantly improved performance characteristics. In particular, the type II InAsSb/AlGaSb core-shell nanowire (CSNW) offers the potential to build uncooled devices with efficiencies exceeding the current state of the art photodetectors, owing to an ability to exploit a newly discovered phenomenon entirely. These devices use a negative photoresponse mechanism, and advances in enhanced light coupling and reduced dark current. The novel architecture presents the potential for high-speed response photodetectors, due to the small capacitance and the extremely high electron mobility. In addition, the monolithic integration with Silicon (Si) technology is extremely attractive to manufacturers in creating large size single photodetectors and large FPA.
Successful completion of this project is anticipated to lead to prototypes for the development of next generation photodetectors with dramatically reduced costs owing to the shortened semiconductor growth time, reduced material consumption, and large size/low-cost Si substrate opportunities. The partnership between Lancaster University (a UK based research intensive academic institution) and InfraTec (a German manufacturer for infrared photodetectors with more than 25 years experience) will aim to develop and demonstrate a prototype uncooled nanowire infrared photodetector device with a response range of 3-5 um.
This demonstration device will prove the new concept operation mechanism in type II CSNW materials as effective in uncooled photodetection. It will also represent a breakthrough in infrared photodetector technology and a step change in the infrared detection and spectroscopy industries.