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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L025396/1
Title: Applications of Epitaxial lift off technology for II-VI semiconductors
Principal Investigator: Kar, Professor AK
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr R Moug
Project Partners:
City College of New York
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2014 Ends: 28 May 2018 Value (£): 388,038
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
08 May 2014 EPSRC Physical Sciences Materials - May 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Semiconductor structures containing different materials are grown as thin film multilayers by techniques such as molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). MBE produces layers with excellent control of thickness but is limited to total thicknesses of just a few microns. In addition, growth takes place on a substrate, which is a highly crystalline template of a material such as gallium arsenide. After growth, the thin film layer remains bonded to the substrate.

However, if one of the layers deposited is a so-called sacrificial layer soluble in a solvent (such as a weak acid) then all the layers deposited on top of it can be removed from the substrate. This process is called epitaxial lift off (ELO) and is advantageous in applications where the substrate is either not required or even hinders the operation of the device. Often using ELO means that the substrate can be recycled, which can reduce operating costs. An additional use for ELO is that the layers can be assembled into complex structures with many different types of materials. ELO layers can be transferred to intermediate flexible plastic substrates and patterned before assembly, so very complex structures can be produced.

II-VI semiconductors are materials with a number of very useful properties, for example bandgaps ranging from 0 to 5eV. Other II-VI semiconductors have useful magnetic properties, for example some (e.g. CrS) are ferromagnets and others (e.g. MnS) are antiferromagnets. At Heriot-Watt University (HWU), we developed ELO for II-VI compounds using MgS sacrificial layers. The original method could only be used on small sample sizes (3mm square) but demonstrated many useful applications. Within the last few months we have developed a number of breakthroughs in II-VI ELO which show it has much more potential. In particular, we can remove pieces several square cm in size using a flexible plastic carrier. An additional very useful property is that when two ELO layers touch they will combine together, or stack, with the adhesion between layers so strong that they cannot be separated without breaking them.

This proposal aims to develop this technology in 3 ways. First, we will show that ELO is easily extended to whole semiconductor wafers, and ELO layers can be transferred on flexible plastic carriers and patterned into small components. The components can be transferred again (stamped) to a final destination. All of this will be done with high (~100%) yield.

Second, we will demonstrate the advantages of II-VI ELO by assembling 5 different demonstrator devices requested by our colleagues at HWU. We will supply these for evaluation as part of their own on-going research programmes. The devices include two types of sensors (temperature, and electric or magnetic fields), an optical diode, which only allows light propagation in one direction, a frequency doubler and a photonic bandgap structure. These structures are very difficult to produce by normal thin film growth techniques, but are easily produced by stacking ELO layers.

The final strand of the programme develops the potential of ELO in different ways. The ability to move electrons or holes between ELO and adjacent layers would increase the number of applications: for example allowing us in future to develop photovoltaics or detectors. We will measure the electrical transport properties across ELO junctions between ZnSe and different materials and if possible modify them with different surface treatments.

One surface treatment developed at HWU protects the II-VI layer surface after growth against contamination. At HWU it has worked for several months. We aim to show that it can be used to transport HWU ELO layers to City College, New York and show that it is possible to combine materials which are not available in the same MBE system and make ELO available to other groups.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk