Sunday, 23 November 2014

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To explain the theory and the underlying principle behind the functioning of an LED
The first known report of a light-emitting solid-state diode was made in 1907 by
the British experimenter H. J. Round. In the mid 1920s, Russian Oleg Vladimirovich Losev independently created the first LED, although his research was ignored at that time.
• In 1955, Rubin Braunstein of the Radio Corporation of America reported on infrared emission from gallium arsenide (GaAs) and other semiconductor alloys.
• Experimenters at Texas Instruments, Bob Biard and Gary Pittman, found in 1961 that gallium arsenide gave off infrared radiation when electric current was applied. Biard & Pittman received the patent for the infrared light-emitting diode.

• In 1962, Nick Holonyak Jr., of the General Electric Company and later with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed the first practical visible spectrum LED. He is seen as the "father of the light-emitting diode".
• In 1972, M. George Craford, Holonyak's former graduate student, invented the first yellow LED and 10x brighter red and red-orange LEDs.
• Shuji  Nakamura of Nichia Corporation of Japan demonstrated the first high brightness blue LED based on In GaN. The 2006 Millennium Technology Prize was awarded to Nakamura for his invention.


A Light emitting diode (LED) is essentially a pn junction diode. When carriers are injected across a forward-biased junction, it emits incoherent light. Most of the commercial LEDs are realized using a highly doped n and a p Junction.
To understand the principle, let’s consider an unbiased pn+ junction band . The depletion region extends mainly into the p-side. There is a potential barrier from Ec on the n-side to the Ec on the p-side, called the built-in voltage, V0. This potential barrier prevents the excess free electrons on the n+ side from diffusing into the p side.
When a Voltage V is applied across the junction, the built-in potential is reduced from V0 to V0 – V. This allows the electrons from the n+ side to get injected into the p-side. Since electrons are the minority carriers in the p-side, this process is called minority carrier injection. But the hole injection from the p side to n+ side is very less and so the current is primarily due to the flow of electrons into the p-side. Appendix 1) results in spontaneous emission of photons (light). This effect is called injection electroluminescence. These photons should be allowed to escape from the device without being reabsorbed.
The recombination can be classified into the following two kinds

• Direct recombination

• Indirect recombination

Direct Recombination:

In direct band gap materials, the minimum energy of the conduction band lies directly above the maximum energy of the valence band in momentum space energy 

. In this material, free electrons at the bottom of the conduction band can recombine directly with free holes at the top of the valence band, as the momentum of the two particles is the same. This transition from conduction band to valence band involves photon emission (takes care of the principle of energy conservation). This is known as direct recombination. Direct recombination occurs spontaneously. GaAs is an example of a direct band-gap material.

Indirect Recombination

In the indirect band gap materials, the minimum energy in the conduction band is shifted by a k-vector relative to the valence band. The k-vector difference represents a difference in momentum. Due to this difference in momentum, the probability of direct electronhole recombination is less. In these materials, additional dopants(impurities) are added which form very shallow donor states. These donor states capture the free electrons locally; provides the necessary momentum shift for recombination. These donor states serve as the recombination centers. This is called Indirect (non-radiative) Recombination.

 E-k plot of an indirect band gap material and an example of how Nitrogen serves as a recombination center in GaAsP. In this case it creates a donor state, when SiC is doped with Al, it recombination takes place through an acceptor level. The indirect recombination should satisfy both conservation energy, and momentum. Thus besides a photon emission, phononemission or absorption has to take place. GaP is an example of an indirect band-gap material.
The wavelength of the light emitted, and hence the color, depends on the band gap energy of the materials forming the p-n junction. The emitted photon energy is approximately equal to the band gap energy of the semiconductor. The following equation relates the wavelength and the energy band gap.

LED Materials

An important class of commercial LEDs that cover the visible spectrum are the III-V(see Appendix 5). ternary alloys based on alloying GaAs and GaP which are denoted by GaAs1- yPy.  InGaAlP is an example of a quarternary (four element) III-V alloy with a direct band gap. The LEDs realized using two differently doped semiconductors that are the same material is called a homo junction. When they are realized using different band gap materials they are called a hetero structure device hetero structure LED is brighter than a homo Junction LED.

LED Structure

The LED structure plays a crucial role in emitting light from the LED surface. The LEDs are structured to ensure most of the recombinations takes place on the surface by the following two ways.
• By increasing the doping concentration of the substrate, so that additional free minority charge carriers electrons move to the top, recombine and emit light at the surface.

• By increasing the diffusion length L = √ Dτ, where D is the diffusion coefficient and τ is the carrier life time. But when increased beyond a critical length there is a chance of re-absorption of the photons into the device. The LED has to be structured so that the photons generated from the device are emitted without being reabsorbed. One solution is to make the p layer on the top thin, enough to create a depletion layer. Following picture shows the layered structure. 
There aredifferent ways to structure the dome for efficient emitting LEDs are usually built on an n-type substrate, with an electrode attached to the p-type layer deposited on its surface. P-type substrates, while less common, occur as well. Many commercial LEDs, especially GaN/InGaN, also use sapphire substrate.

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