We have studied the electrical degradation of RF-power PHEMTs by means of in situ 2-D light-emission measurements. Electroluminescence originates in the recombination of holes that have been generated by impact ionization. The local light intensity, thus, maps the electric-field distribution at the drain side of the device. This allows us to probe the uniformity of electrical degradation due to electric-field-driven mechanisms. We find that electrical degradation proceeds in a highly nonuniform manner across the width of the device. In an initial phase, degradation takes place preferentially toward the center of the gate finger. In advanced stages of degradation, the edges of the device degrade at a preferential rate. We identify the origin of this behavior as a small systematic nonuniformity in the recess geometry that impacts the magnitude of the electric field on the drain of the device. Our research suggests that a close examination of the width distribution of electric field in RF-power PHEMTs (and FETs in general) is essential to enhance their long-term reliability.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mark_somerville/14/