1 Introduction

There is no room for doubt that silicon (Si) has been the fundamental material serving as the backbone technology of semiconductor device electronics. Generally speaking, up to now, the vast majority of electronic systems are based on Si devices such as metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs), bipolar transistors, and some types of diodes. Their performance has tremendously improved by means of uninterrupted innovation in its material and device processing technologies for over the last 70 years. However, performance of Si devices has almost reached the fundamental upper limit expected from its material properties, and it is difficult to keep improving the performance at the same pace as before. In this current situation, research and development (R&D) of FETs and diodes exploiting new semiconductors, which have better physical properties for specific applications than those of Si, has been getting more active from expectations that they may open up a new field of semiconductor electronics and/or elicit characteristics that far exceed those of Si devices. Most of semiconductor physical properties are determined by their bandgap; therefore, bandgap engineering has been one of the main directions for exploring new materials, and a new semiconductor should have a different bandgap energy (Eg) from that of any existing material. Among a variety of new materials, wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors are expected to be promising for power switching applications, since the WBG devices can offer advantages of high efficiency and power density over Si devices. The two most promising WBG semiconductors are silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN); their FETs and diodes have already penetrated into the market.

Recently, a new category called “ultrawide bandgap (UWBG) semiconductor” has attracted great attention due to their strong potential providing new and exciting research opportunities for various applications, and R&D on UWBG materials and devices continues to expand over the years [1]. The UWBG semiconductors are defined by Eg exceeding those of SiC (3.3 eV) and GaN (3.4 eV). High Al-content AlGaN, diamond, and cubic boron nitride are included in the UWBG materials. A new semiconductor gallium oxide (Ga2O3), which is the main topic of this article, is a key material among the UWBG semiconductors. Ga2O3 can offer two fundamental advantages over SiC and GaN: a very large Eg and ease of bulk wafer production.

Ga2O3 is by no means a novel material; it has a long R&D history for over 70 years [2]. However, Ga2O3 had been largely ignored by a majority of semiconductor researchers and engineers, which resulted in it falling behind SiC and GaN. The achievement of the first single-crystal Ga2O3 FET in 2011 is widely credited with changing the situation and invigorating Ga2O3 R&D [3]. As shown in Fig. 1, the number of publications on Ga2O3 significantly increases in recent years according to increased recognition among semiconductor researchers and engineers that Ga2O3 has unique and attractive material properties for various optoelectronics applications.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Number of publications on Ga2O3 from 1975 to 2020. The papers were searched with criterion of containing “Ga2O3” in the title (data: Web of Science as of November 30, 2021)

This article provides a comprehensive review on current β-Ga2O3 material and device technologies. It should be noted that although several polymorphs exist for Ga2O3 as introduced in Section 2.1, discussions in this review will just focus on β-Ga2O3. Following this introduction in Section 1, Section 2 describes basic physical properties of β-Ga2O3. Sections 3 and 4 provide melt bulk and epitaxial thin-film growth technologies for β-Ga2O3, respectively. Selected elemental device processing technologies are given in Section 5. Development history of β-Ga2O3 Schottky barrier diodes (SBDs) and FETs in the author’s group are introduced in Sections 6 and 7, respectively, together with representative achievements reported from other institutes. Section 8 concludes this article.

2 Physical properties

The important material parameters of β-Ga2O3 for electronic device applications are listed in Table 1, together with those of Si, SiC, and GaN. The material parameters and the other important features are discussed in this section.

Table 1 Comparisons of material properties between major semiconductors and β-Ga2O3

2.1 Polymorph

Five types of Ga2O3 polymorphs denoted by α, β, γ, δ, and ε were first reported in 1952 [2]. The β phase is a thermodynamically stable form, and the others are metastable. β-Ga2O3 has the β-gallia monoclinic structure with lattice constants of 12.2, 3.0, and 5.8 Å in the a, b, and c axes, respectively, and the angle between the a and c axes is about 104 [4]. A schematic of the β-Ga2O3 unit cell is depicted in Fig. 2. The β-Ga2O3 crystal structure is composed of two inequivalent Ga sites and three inequivalent O sites. Ga(I) and Ga(II) are tetrahedrally and octahedrally coordinated with O, respectively. O(I) and O(II) have threefold Ga coordination, while O(III) has fourfold. The important feature of β-Ga2O3 in contrast to the other polymorphs is that bulk single crystals can be synthesized by melt growth methods; the details will be given in Section 3.

Fig. 2
figure 2

Atomic unit cell of β-Ga2O3

2.2 Band structure

β-Ga2O3 has an isotropic and dispersive conduction band minimum comprised of the Ga 4s states, and an anisotropic and fairly flat valence band maximum made up of the O 2p states with contributions of the Ga 3d and 4s orbitals [57]. These band structures provide sufficient electron conduction associated with a reasonable electron effective mass of ∼0.3 m0 (m0: free electron mass) [58] and limited hole conduction due to three factors described in Section 2.6.2.

First-principles calculations based on hybrid density functional theory predicted an Eg of 4.6–4.9 eV for β-Ga2O3 [57]. For a long term, there has also been intense discussion on whether β-Ga2O3 is a direct or an indirect semiconductor. As an answer to this scientific question, Onuma et al. reported that energies of absorption edges in β-Ga2O3 melt-grown bulk single crystals can be divided into six ranges within 4.4-5.3 eV according to the selection rules of optical transition caused by the anisotropic valence band maximum and that the direct and indirect Eg were estimated to be 4.48 and 4.43 eV, respectively [9]. In other words, these experimental results indicate that the energy difference between the direct and indirect Eg of β-Ga2O3 is negligibly small at room temperature.

2.3 Breakdown electric field

The breakdown electric field (Ebr) is an intrinsic property that each material has and corresponds to the maximum electric field that the material structure can support before avalanche breakdown. The larger Ebr leads to greater voltage blocking capability of devices, that is, a larger breakdown voltage (Vbr). Theoretical calculation predicted that β-Ga2O3 possesses an extremely large Ebr of over 8 MV/cm [10]. However, in fact, the breakdown events for all of the Ga2O3 FETs and diodes reported so far were caused by their permanent failure due to electric field concentration at a gate or an anode electrode edge; therefore, the intrinsic Ebr of β-Ga2O3 in terms of the avalanche breakdown has never been observed. For reference, the maximum Ebr experimentally derived from structural failure of a high-k dielectric/n-Ga2O3 diode was ∼7 MV/cm [11].

2.4 Electron mobility

The primitive cell of β-Ga2O3 gives rise to many phonon modes due to a lack of symmetry for its monoclinic structure. Among the various modes, the longitudinal optical (LO) phonon with energies of 20–40 meV has the highest impact on low-field electron mobility (μ) in β-Ga2O3 bulks [12]. This is the main factor why the room temperature μ of n-Ga2O3 is theoretically expected to be limited up to ∼200 cm2/Vs [13, 14], even though the electron effective mass is comparable to those of the other WBG semiconductors. Actually, the peak room temperature and low temperature μ of n-Ga2O3 films experimentally measured were 150–180 and 5000–10,000 cm2/Vs, respectively [1518].

2.5 Saturation electron velocity

The high-field carrier transport is another important factor having a large impact on electronic device performance. The saturation electron velocity (vsat) in β-Ga2O3 was theoretically predicted to be 1–2 ×107 cm/s [19], which is equivalent to that in Si and about half of those in SiC and GaN. It should be noted that the vsat is sufficiently good for many of high-frequency applications.

2.6 Doping

2.6.1 n-type

Si, germanium (Ge), and tin (Sn) are often used as donor dopants for β-Ga2O3. These group IV elements form shallow donor states in Ga2O3 [20, 21], and their activation ratios at room temperature are very high (∼100% for Si). The electron density (n) in β-Ga2O3 can be precisely controlled in a wide range of 1015–1020 cm −3 by using the donor dopants. As for controllability of n-type conductivity, Ga2O3 is absolutely the same as other semiconductors.

2.6.2 p-type

Contrary to the ease of n-type doping, a major drawback of Ga2O3 has been a lack of hole-conductive p-type material, which is the most serious limitation for development of Ga2O3 devices. In fact, there has been no report on successful p-type doping with effective hole conduction, even though there are some potential acceptor dopants: magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn), and beryllium (Be) as cation substituting dopants and nitrogen (N) as an anion substituting one. There are three factors to make it almost impossible to realize hole-conductive p-type Ga2O3. First, it is generally difficult for single-crystal oxide semiconductors to form shallow acceptor states, since their valence band states are mainly composed of the weakly interacting O 2p orbitals as discussed in Section 2.2. Theoretical calculations predicted that all the acceptor candidates would exhibit extremely large activation energies of over 1 eV [22, 23]. Another expected factor limiting hole conductivity is the very low μ and diffusion constant owing to the heavy hole effective mass originated from the flat valence band maximum [57]. Furthermore, it was also theoretically predicted that holes localize in β-Ga2O3 as small polarons due to lattice distortion, as opposed to being free holes widely populating [2426]. From the three factors, hole-conductive p-Ga2O3 seems to be hardly realized. However, p-Ga2O3 layers formed by the deep-acceptor doping are useful to form a large energy barrier of over 3 eV in n-Ga2O3 by utilizing the built-in potential at the p-n junction.

2.7 Thermal conductivity

The thermal conductivity is one of the important parameters to make a great impact on performance of high-power devices, since it limits dissipation capacity of heat generated by on-state conduction loss in the channel and/or drift regions. Ga2O3 has a significantly lower thermal conductivity compared to those of the other power semiconductors as listed in Table 1 [2730]. The thermal conductivity of β-Ga2O3 is anisotropic due to the monoclinic lattice structure; they were estimated to be 0.22–0.27 W/cmK in the [010] direction (highest) and 0.11–0.14 W/cmK in the [100] direction (lowest). The low thermal conductivity will not only hamper high-power device performance but also limit long-term device reliability. Hence, thermal management is one of the key technical challenges for future practical applications and industrialization of Ga2O3 RF and power devices.

2.8 Device figure of merit

There are several device figures of merit (FOMs) to estimate how suitable a semiconductor material is for specific device application. Here, two FOMs are discussed: Baliga’s FOM (BFOM) [31, 32] and Johnson’s FOM (JFOM) [33].

BFOM is commonly used as a parameter to estimate potential of semiconductor materials for power switching device applications. The BFOM of β-Ga2O3 is several times larger than those of SiC and GaN. This is because BFOM is proportional to the cube of Ebr but only linearly proportional to μ. Therefore, we can expect from the BFOM that β-Ga2O3 power devices can offer lower conduction loss compared with the other semiconductor devices listed in Table 1 when designing the structure for a given voltage.

We use JFOM to estimate material potential for RF power FET applications. The JFOM of β-Ga2O3 is estimated to be the same level as or a little inferior to that of GaN. However, the actual power efficiency of FETs used in RF amplifiers is generally ∼50%, that is, the other half loss converts to heat. Thus, it is expected that the poor heat dissipation capacity of β-Ga2O3 attributed to its low thermal conductivity becomes much more serious for applications to RF devices rather than power switching devices.

3 Melt bulk growth

The availability of affordable native wafers manufactured from melt-grown bulk single crystals is one of the distinctive features for β-Ga2O3 and offers a significant advantage of Ga2O3 over SiC and GaN in terms of wafer size, crystal quality, and production cost, because SiC and GaN bulk crystals require alternative synthesis techniques using higher pressure and temperature. β-Ga2O3 bulk single crystals have been synthesized by various melt growth methods illustrated in Fig. 3, such as floating zone [34, 35], Czochralski (CZ) [36, 37], vertical Bridgman [38], and edge-defined film-fed growth (EFG)[35, 39]. Si or Sn is usually used as a donor dopant to control n, and semi-insulating Ga2O3 bulks are producible through compensation of residual donors with Fe or Mg doping. Now, n-type and semi-insulating β-Ga2O3 wafers manufactured from CZ and EFG bulks are made commercially available to the public, which are of sufficiently high quality for development of various Ga2O3 devices.

Fig. 3
figure 3

Melt growth methods for synthesis of β-Ga2O3 bulk single crystals

4 Epitaxial growth

4.1 Molecular beam epitaxy

Molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) is an epitaxial growth technique conducted in ultrahigh vacuum and enables precise control of layer thickness. As other compound semiconductors, MBE has been the most commonly used for thin-film growth of Ga2O3 in the early days of R&D. Figure 4 depicts a schematic of a typical MBE machine for Ga2O3 growth. An effusion cell is used to sublimate a Ga metal source in order to form molecular beam flux that travels in a line of sight toward a substrate. Ga2O3 epitaxial growth happens on the substrate by means of oxidization of supplied Ga atoms using oxidant such as ozone (O3) and oxygen (O) radicals. Two-step reaction happens between Ga and O during Ga2O3 MBE growth [40]. In the first stage of growth, volatile gallium suboxides (Ga2O) are formed by oxidization of supplied Ga atoms on the growth surface. Then, in the second stage, Ga2O desorbs from the growth surface or is incorporated into a Ga2O3 epitaxial layer by becoming Ga2O3 through a further oxidization process. Due to this unique growth kinetics, the growth rate strongly depends on growth parameters such as O/Ga flux ratio, growth temperature, and substrate orientation, since it is determined by competition between the Ga2O desorption and oxidization processes. Intentional n-type doping has been demonstrated by using Si, Sn, and Ge as donor dopants [4144]. However, it is difficult to control a low doping density on the order of 1016 cm −3 or less, because the surface of the dopant source in an effusion cell is easily oxidized during the MBE growth by background O species, resulting in the dopant flux hardly controlled. Furthermore, there is a specific issue only for Sn atoms that they tend to segregate on the growth surface without being incorporated into the epitaxial film [45]. At present, MBE-grown β-Ga2O3 epitaxial wafers are mainly utilized for fabrication of lateral FETs, and both of the MBE methods using O3 and O radicals can provide high-quality β-Ga2O3 films sufficient for the device development.

Fig. 4
figure 4

Schematic of MBE machine with both O3 inlet and O-plasma cell for β-Ga2O3 epitaxial growth

4.2 Halide vapor phase epitaxy

High-speed β-Ga2O3 thin-film growth attained by halide vapor phase epitaxy (HVPE) was first reported in 2014 [46]. The crystal quality of the HVPE-grown β-Ga2O3 films was excellent from the beginning. Figure 5 illustrates a schematic of an HVPE reactor for Ga2O3 growth. Gallium monochloride (GaCl) and O2 are typically used as Ga and O precursors, respectively. The growth rate of β-Ga2O3 thin films can be increased up to 20 μm/h without any degradation of crystal quality. The background n of unintentionally doped (UID) β-Ga2O3 (001) films is very low, which is less than 1 ×1013 cm −3 [47]. Si doping performed by simultaneous supply of SiCl4 during the Ga2O3 growth can provide accurate control of n in a wide range from 1015 to 1019 cm −3 [15]. The maximum electron μ in HVPE-grown Si-doped n-Ga2O3 films is ∼150 cm2/Vs at room temperature reported so far [15]. In recent years, epitaxial wafers with HVPE-grown n-Ga2O3 layers are mass produced and widely utilized for development of vertical FETs and SBDs around the world.

Fig. 5
figure 5

Schematic of HVPE reactor for β-Ga2O3 epitaxial growth

4.3 Metalorganic chemical vapor deposition

Metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) is a well-established epitaxial growth technique for compound semiconductors and is often employed for production of high-quality epitaxial wafers on an industrial scale. There used to be some limitations for Ga2O3 MOCVD growth, such as low growth rate, high-density background n, and low electron μ. However, most of the technical issues have been resolved within the last 5 years, and MOCVD can provide high-quality β-Ga2O3 films required for device development now. In a Ga2O3 MOCVD reactor as shown in Fig. 6, traditional Ga precursors such as trimethylgallium (TMGa) and triethylgallium (TEGa), and high-purity O2 and H2O are generally used for the growth. Si donor doping can be done by simultaneous supply of Si-containing precursors.

Fig. 6
figure 6

Schematic of MOCVD reactor for β-Ga2O3 epitaxial growth

The growth rate has been increased to ∼4 μm/h through optimization of growth condition [48]. The background n of MOCVD-grown UID β-Ga2O3 films is now at a low level of less than 1 ×1016 cm −3 [17, 49]. The peak electron μ of Si-doped n-Ga2O3 films were ∼180 and ∼10,000 cm2/Vs at room temperature and 45 K, respectively [1618]. These electrical properties are comparable with those of HVPE-grown films. Furthermore, MOCVD can offer high-quality β-(AlGa)2O3 thin films and β-(AlGa)2O3/Ga2O3 heterostructures [50, 51]; this is an important advantage of MOCVD over HVPE.

5 Device process technologies

5.1 Ion implantation doping

For β-Ga2O3, ease of ion implantation doping has gained less attention compared with other features; however, this is definitely important for mass production of β-Ga2O3 devices in the future. Here, ion implantation doping processes developed for β-Ga2O3 by the author’s group are presented.

5.1.1 n-type

Si-ion implantation doping process was developed to fabricate ohmic electrodes on n-Ga2O3 [52]. Implanted Si atoms start to be activated by annealing at 800 C, and the activation ratio becomes the highest at 900–1000 C. Note that the activation ratio also depends on the Si doping density. The highest n of Si-doped β-Ga2O3 layers formed by implantation was 3 ×1019 cm −3 for a Si density of 5 ×1019 cm −3, which is high enough to form decent ohmic electrodes with a low contact resistance. The typical room-temperature electron μ of n-Ga2O3 layers with an n of low- to mid-1017 cm −3 formed by Si-ion implantation is ∼100 cm2/Vs [53], which is comparable with those of n-Ga2O3 layers prepared by in-situ donor doping during epitaxial growth. The Si-ion implantation doping is useful for formation of not only ohmic electrodes but also FET channels; the author’s group has been using this technique to form n-Ga2O3 active regions in various types of devices.

5.1.2 Deep acceptor p-type

The author’s group attempted to develop ion implantation doping processes for deep acceptor species to form a large energy barrier in n-Ga2O3 provided by the built-in potential of the p-n junction rather than a hole-conductive p-Ga2O3 layer. We first tried Mg as a deep-acceptor candidate, because it is predicted to be the most stable cation-site acceptor with the lowest formation energy in β-Ga2O3 [22, 23]. Mg-ion implantation doping into n-Ga2O3 bulk crystals and subsequent annealing converts the n-type conductivity into semi-insulating, which is attributed to compensation of the donors by the doped Mg [54]. However, implanted Mg atoms significantly diffuse during the activation annealing; in consequence, it is difficult to precisely control their depth profile.

We chose N as an alternative candidate of deep acceptor for β-Ga2O3. N is the closest to O in terms of ionic size and electronic structure and thus can be expected to be the most possible anion-substituting acceptor. Implanted N atoms in n-Ga2O3 effectively activate by annealing at temperatures of higher than 1100 C and contribute to compensation of the background donors [54]. Furthermore, the N atoms exhibit much lower diffusivity in β-Ga2O3 than Mg atoms, which helps to keep the doping profile even after high-temperature activation annealing.

Test structures with a Mg- or a N-doped current blocking layer (CBL) as shown in Fig. 7a were fabricated by ion implantation processes to compare their leakage characteristics. The N-doped structure provided much lower leakage current compared with the Mg-doped one [Fig. 7b], because the N profile was maintained even after activation annealing due to its less diffusivity. These results indicate that N-ion implantation is more useful for device fabrication than Mg-ion implantation.

Fig. 7
figure 7

a Schematic cross section of test structure with CBL fabricated using Mg- or N-ion implantation doping and b its vertical leakage current characteristics

5.2 Metal/n-Ga2O3 contacts

5.2.1 Schottky contact

A variety of Schottky metals including tungsten (W), copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), iridium (Ir), platinum (Pt), and gold (Au) have been reported for n-Ga2O3 [5557]. Pt and Ni are the most common ones used for device fabrication among them. The Schottky contacts on n-Ga2O3 are usually of high quality, which is typified by an ideality factor close to unity. The barrier height between the metal and n-Ga2O3 reported so far is 1.0–1.5 eV, depending on the metal species and the crystal orientation of β-Ga2O3 surface. Layered oxide metal PdCoO2 also forms a high-quality Schottky junction with n-Ga2O3 [58].

5.2.2 Ohmic contact

Titanium (Ti)-based metal stacks typified by Ti/Au have been commonly used to fabricate ohmic electrodes on n-Ga2O3. It should be noted that Ti-based electrodes formed on n-Ga2O3 can provide ohmic characteristics only in case of n > 1018 cm −3; therefore, formation of n+-Ga2O3 is absolutely necessary to fabricate ohmic contacts. Si-ion implantation doping and regrowth have been utilized to form n+-Ga2O3 ohmic regions [52, 59, 60]. The post-metallization annealing provides short-range intermixing of Ti and Ga2O3 at the interface, resulting in further reduction in contact resistance and improvement in reliability and endurance [6163]. The routine process developed in the author’s group based on the Si-ion implantation doping described in Section 5.1.1 and post-metallization annealing can provide a low specific contact resistance of less than 1 ×10 −5 Ωcm2. Transparent amorphous oxides such as indium tin oxide and zinc oxide have also been tested as ohmic electrodes [6466].

5.3 Etching

Dry etching processes such as BCl3-based reactive-ion etching (RIE) and inductively coupled plasma RIE (ICP-RIE) are most commonly used for fabrication of β-Ga2O3 devices [67, 68]. It is also possible to perform wet etching of β-Ga2O3 using hot acid such as H3PO4 and H2SO4 [69, 70]. Dry etching often causes plasma damage on the Ga2O3 surface [71], and wet etching is effective to remove the damaged region [72]. Metal-assisted chemical etching, which is a technique to use Pt having a catalytic effect as an etching mask, is unique and useful to fabricate mesa structures and fin arrays with a high aspect ratio [73].

5.4 Direct wafer bonding

The performance of many types of semiconductor devices is limited by their heat dissipation capacity, since heat generation under high-power operation is inevitable even for high-efficiency power devices, and an electrical resistance of the drift layer increases with rising operation temperature due to a decrease in electron μ. Therefore, for Ga2O3 device technologies, the low thermal conductivity is a serious potential weakness, and thermal management is one of the most important R&D challenges. One of the effective ways to improve heat dissipation from Ga2O3 devices is heterogeneous integration of Ga2O3 active layers with foreign substrates having high thermal conductivity such as SiC and diamond by direct bonding [7477]. The author’s group performed surface activated bonding between single-crystal β-Ga2O3 and cost-effective polycrystalline SiC substrates. The Ga2O3/SiC bonded substrate demonstrated superior characteristics such as a large mechanical bonding strength of over 10 MPa, a small specific electrical resistance of 2 ×10 −4 Ωcm2, and a negligibly small thermal resistance at the bonding interface [74].


WBG- and UWBG-semiconductor SBDs can offer some advantages against Si diodes mainly based on their large BFOMs: higher Vbr, lower on-resistance (Ron), higher efficiency, and faster switching speed. A variety of Ga2O3 SBDs have been developed over the last decade. Primitive Ga2O3 SBDs were fabricated with a β-Ga2O3 bulk wafer synthesized by EFG [78]. At the time, β-Ga2O3 epitaxial wafers with a thick drift layer having n < 1017 cm −3 were hardly available, since MBE was the only technique that could provide high-purity epitaxial layers but was not able to provide n-Ga2O3 layers with a low n satisfying requirement for fabrication of high-voltage devices due to technical limitation of donor doping [45]. The HVPE technology became a breakthrough for the development of vertical β-Ga2O3 devices, because high-quality, low-doped n-Ga2O3 drift layers were made available thanks to it. Simple β-Ga2O3 SBDs with HVPE-grown drift layers demonstrated excellent current–voltage output characteristics following the thermionic emission and thermionic field emission models at forward- and reverse-bias conditions, respectively [79], which are typical behaviors for WBG and UWBG semiconductors. The next step was enhancement of Vbr to prove that β-Ga2O3 SBDs are useful for high-voltage applications. First demonstration of Ga2O3 SBDs with Vbr > 1 kV was achieved by applying a field plate to mitigate electric field concentration at the edge of the anode electrode [80]. The field-plated SBDs also showed good on-state device characteristics such as an Ron of 5.1 m Ωcm2 and an ideality factor of 1.03. Another edge-termination structure often employed for power SBDs is a guard ring. Our latest SBDs with both a field plate and a N-implanted guard ring, which is schematically illustrated in Fig. 8, achieved an enhancement of Vbr to 1.43 kV with keeping the same level of Ron [81]. Mg-ion implantation doping and fluorine treatment were also employed to form guard rings [82, 83].

Fig. 8
figure 8

Schematic cross section of Ga2O3 SBD with field plate and N-implanted guard ring. Adapted with permission [81]. Copyright 2019, IEEE

As another attempt to increase Vbr, β-Ga2O3 trench SBDs have also been developed [8486]. An anode electrode was formed to cover trench sidewalls on which an Al2O3 dielectric was deposited. At the reverse-bias condition, the depletion region laterally spreads from the sidewalls, leading to an increase in Vbr. A very high Vbr of over 2 kV was demonstrated for the trench SBDs with keeping a low Ron of ∼10 m Ωcm2.


7.1 Lateral FET

7.1.1 MESFET

The first demonstration of single-crystal Ga2O3 transistors was achieved in the form of metal-semiconductor FET (MESFET) as shown in Fig. 9, which was fabricated using a 300-nm-thick Sn-doped n-Ga2O3 channel layer grown on a Mg-doped semi-insulating β-Ga2O3 (010) substrate by MBE [3]. The MESFET met a basic standard required as a transistor: drain current (Id) modulation from the on-state to the off-state by gate voltage (Vg) swing. Although it was the first experimental attempt on fabricating Ga2O3 FETs, fundamental device characteristics were reasonably good, such as a maximum Id of 15 mA/mm at a drain voltage (Vd) of 40 V, a large three-terminal off-state Vbr of ∼250 V, and a high Id on/off ratio of over four orders of magnitude. However, two shortcomings of poor source/drain ohmic contacts and small surface leakage were noted for the MESFET.

Fig. 9
figure 9

Schematic cross section of Ga2O3 MESFET. Adapted with permission [3]. Copyright 2012, AIP

7.1.2 Depletion-mode MOSFET

To improve the ohmic contact, the Si-ion implantation doping process was developed [52], as described in Sections 5.1.1 and 5.2.2. As a next step of β-Ga2O3 FET development, we fabricated depletion-mode (D-mode) MOSFETs with Si-implanted n-Ga2O3 channel and n+-Ga2O3 ohmic regions, and an Al2O3 gate dielectric formed by plasma-assisted atomic layer deposition (ALD), as illustrated in Fig. 10 [87]. Thanks to a large reduction in the ohmic contact resistance, the maximum Id was largely increased to 65 mA/mm. The gate dielectric contributed to increasing the off-state Vbr to ∼400 V and drastically suppressing an off-state leakage current, which led to a large increase in the Id on/off ratio to over 1010.

Fig. 10
figure 10

Schematic cross section of D-mode Ga2O3 MOSFET. Adapted with permission [87]. Copyright 2013, IEEE

7.1.3 Field-plated MOSFET

Based on the D-mode MOSFETs, β-Ga2O3 field-plated MOSFETs were fabricated to further enhance Vbr by preventing electric field concentration at the drain-side edge portion of the gate metal. Figure 11 shows a cross-sectional schematic of the Ga2O3 MOSFET structure with a gate-connected field plate [88]. The field plate successfully contributed to a large enhancement of Vbr to ∼750 V without any degradation of on-state device characteristics from those of the D-mode MOSFETs. The field-plated MOSFETs also exhibited no DC–RF dispersion by virtue of the effect of the thick SiO2 passivation and high operation stability up to 300 C. Due to the continued development, the Vbr of lateral β-Ga2O3 field-plated MOSFETs has increased to over 2 kV [89, 90].

Fig. 11
figure 11

Schematic cross section of field-plated Ga2O3 MOSFET. Adapted with permission [88]. Copyright 2016, IEEE

From the material properties typified by the large Eg, β-Ga2O3 is expected to have high resistance against stresses caused by high temperature, radiation, and corrosive gases, as well as being suited for power devices. Hence, it can be considered that β-Ga2O3 FETs have a large potential even for wireless communications and signal processing circuits in harsh environments in which it is difficult for existing semiconductor devices to keep operating for a long term. Based on the idea, we also investigated gamma-ray tolerance of the Ga2O3 field-plated MOSFETs [91]. The MOSFETs showed only small degradation of DC IdVd output characteristics even after high-dose cumulative gamma-ray irradiation up to 1.6 MGy. Note that the irradiation dose is at a level of exceeding requirements for typical space applications. These results indicate a great potential of β-Ga2O3 FETs for applications to high-temperature and/or radiation-hard electronics.

7.1.4 Normally-off MOSFET

Enhancement-mode (E-mode) β-Ga2O3 MOSFETs realizing normally-off operation were fabricated by decreasing a thickness and/or a doping concentration of a channel layer to enable full channel depletion under a gate at Vg = 0 V [92]. β-Ga2O3 MOSFETs having an unintentionally N-doped Ga2O3 channel layer grown by plasma-assisted MBE as illustrated in Fig. 12 demonstrated normally-off operation with a large turn-on threshold Vg of over +8 V [93]. The channel layer with UID N and Si densities of respectively 1 ×1018 and 2 ×1017 cm −3 is equivalent to p-type, since deep-acceptor N impurities compensate donor Si ones. These results would imply formation of an inversion channel at the interface between the Al2O3 gate dielectric and the N-doped Ga2O3 layer.

Fig. 12
figure 12

Schematic cross section of Ga2O3 MOSFET with unintentionally N-doped channel. Adapted with permission [93]. Copyright 2019, IEEE

7.1.5 High-frequency MOSFET

The author’s group fabricated highly scaled β-Ga2O3 MOSFETs as shown in Fig. 13, which aimed for applications to high-frequency wireless communications and logic circuits operating in harsh environments [94]. The MOSFETs with a gate length (Lg) of 200 nm demonstrated a current-gain cutoff frequency (fT) of 9 GHz and a maximum oscillation frequency (fmax) of 27 GHz. Note that comparable RF small-signal characteristics were also reported from other institutes [95, 96]. These RF device characteristics indicate that β-Ga2O3 FETs can be used for wireless communications at frequencies up to ∼10 GHz.

Fig. 13
figure 13

Schematic cross section of short-gate Ga2O3 MOSFET. Adapted with permission [94]. Copyright 2020, AIP

7.2 Vertical FET

As of the time of this writing, there have been a few groups developing vertical β-Ga2O3 FETs in the world. Two representative developments are discussed in this subsection.

7.2.1 Current-aperture FET

Vertical FETs with a current aperture were often selected as a first target in the history of vertical transistor developments due to its simple structure. Figure 14 shows a schematic cross section of a vertical D-mode β-Ga2O3 MOSFET with a current aperture that is bounded laterally by N-implanted CBLs [97]. It should be noted that three ion implantation processes were conducted to form the N-doped p-Ga2O3 CBLs, a Si-doped n-Ga2O3 channel, and heavily Si-doped n++-Ga2O3 source ohmic contact regions. Decent device characteristics such as a maximum Id of 0.42 kA/cm2 and a specific Ron of 31.5 m Ωcm2 were demonstrated. The Id on/off ratio of over 108 was recorded. The three-terminal off-state Vbr was limited to less than 30 V owing to large electric field in the Al2O3 gate dielectric due to the high Si doping density of the channel.

Fig. 14
figure 14

Schematic cross section of vertical D-mode Ga2O3 FET with current aperture. Adapted with permission [97]. Copyright 2019, IEEE

E-mode operation of vertical β-Ga2O3 MOSFETs was also demonstrated [98]. The device fabrication process and structure of the E-mode MOSFETs were almost the same as those of the D-mode MOSFETs. There were two modifications from the D-mode structure: a decrease in Si doping density of the channel from 1.5 ×1018 to 5.0 ×1017 cm −3 and formation of an n++-region-gate overlap to avoid channel depletion in the gate-source access region at thermal equilibrium. A turn-on threshold Vg of larger than + 3 V and an Id on/off ratio of over 106 were attained. The off-state Vbr was enhanced to ∼250 V thanks to the reduction in the Si doping density in the channel.

7.2.2 Fin-channel FET

Top- and side-gate configuration formed on mesa trenches of fin-channel FETs allows superior gate controllability compared with that of planar FETs. The fin-channel FET structures are often developed for low-voltage, high-speed applications; however, the gate configuration is also effective for vertical power FETs on electric-field management. The same group of Cornell University that developed the trench SBDs reported vertical β-Ga2O3 FETs with a sub- μm fin channel [99]. E-mode operation was achieved for the devices by means of full channel depletion from the sidewalls at Vg = 0 V. The fin-channel FETs demonstrated excellent device characteristics such as a large Id of 1 kA/cm2, a specific Ron of 10–20 m Ωcm2, an Id on/off ratio of ∼108, and an off-state Vbr of ∼1 kV.

8 Conclusions

This article presents an overview of current R&D status of β-Ga2O3 science and engineering, which covers material properties, melt bulk growth, epitaxial thin-film growth, device processing, and state-of-the-art device technologies. The extremely large BFOM and the availability of high-quality, large-diameter single-crystal wafers produced from melt-grown bulks are especially attractive from practical application perspectives. Over the past 10 years, all the aspects of β-Ga2O3 material and device technologies have significantly progressed, and several development milestones on the way to industrialization and commercialization of β-Ga2O3 FETs and SBDs have already been achieved. It is gratifying that Ga2O3 has gained a lot of popularity for the last 10 years thanks to the accomplishments and is now largely accepted as one of the promising UWBG materials in the semiconductor community. However, there is no room for doubt that the current β-Ga2O3 device technologies are still immature, and that we still have a long way to start to introduce them into markets. Future intense efforts are indispensable to develop advanced device structures to improve their characteristics. Overcoming the two shortcomings related to fundamental material properties, which are the absence of hole-conductive p-Ga2O3 and the poor thermal conductivity, should be tough challenges. The potential of β-Ga2O3 devices is worth putting the effort into the developments, because it can be expected that β-Ga2O3 power and harsh-environment devices will contribute to global energy saving and creation of new application fields of semiconductor device electronics, respectively. The continued efforts on material and device engineering should lead to generating far-reaching technological and socioeconomic impacts.