Modeling gain mechanisms in amorphous silicon due to efficient carrier multiplication and trap-induced junction modulation

Iftikhar Ahmad Niaz, Mohammad Abu Raihan Miah, Lujiang Yan, Yugang Yu, Zhao Yu He, Yang Zhang, Alex Ce Zhang, Jiayun Zhou, Yong Hang Zhang, Yu Hwa Lo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Amorphous materials have low mobility due to their nature of disorder. Surprisingly, some disordered materials showed photocurrent amplification not by conventional photoconductive gain. Recently, amorphous Silicon (a-Si) photodiodes with thin a-Si layer (∼40 nm) have shown a gain-bandwidth product of over 2 THz with very low excess noise and also have been used as a gain media in a cascaded system with single photon sensitivity. To unveil the true gain mechanism, we performed theoretical modeling and numerical analysis along with experimental data at different frequencies. We show evidence of highly effective carrier multiplication process within a-Si as the primary gain mechanism, especially at high frequency. We also show presence of trap-induced junction modulation at much lower frequency. We modeled the gain mechanism in a-Si by solving the transport equations including dynamics of defect states and carrier multiplication via the local field model. We further justified the application of local field model for thin a-Si, based on the property that in a-Si, the mean-free path for energy relaxation is orders of magnitude greater than the mean-free-path for momentum relaxation. The analysis further suggests that the carrier multiplication process in thin a-Si can be much more efficient than in thick a-Si, even stronger than single crystalline Si in some cases. Although seemingly counter intuitive, this is consistent with the proposed cycling excitation process where the localized states in the bandtails of disordered materials such as a-Si relax the k-selection rule and increase the rate of carrier multiplication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8758185
Pages (from-to)5056-5066
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Lightwave Technology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Amorphous silicon
  • avalanche photodetector
  • cycling excitation process
  • energy relaxation time
  • high frequency gain
  • impact ionization
  • junction modulation
  • localized states

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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