Organic-inorganic hybrid thin film transistors and electronic circuits

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Kim, Jungbae
Kippelen, Bernard
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Thin-film transistors (TFTs) capable of low-voltage and high-frequency operation will be required to reduce the power consumption of next generation electronic devices driven by microelectronic components such as inverters, ring oscillators, and backplane circuits for mobile displays. To produce high performance TFTs, transparent oxide-semiconductors are becoming an attractive alternative to hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H)- and organic-based materials because of their high electron mobility vlaues and low processing temperatures, making them compatible with flexible substrates and opening the potential for low production costs. Practical electronic devices are expected to use p- and n-channel TFT-based complementary inverters to operate with low power consumption, high gain values, and high and balanced noise margins. The p- and n-channel TFTs should yield comparable output characteristics despite differences in the materials used to achieve such performance. However, most oxide semiconductors are n-type, and the only high performance, oxide-based TFTs demonstrated so far are all n-channel, which prevents the realization of complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technologies. On the other hand, ambipolar TFTs are very attractive microelectronic devices because, unlike unipolar transistors, they operate independently of the polarity of the gate voltage. This intrinsic property of ambipolar TFTs has the potential to lead to new paradigms in the design of analog and digital circuits. To date, ambipolar TFTs and their circuits, such as inverters, have shown very limited performance when compared with that obtained in unipolar TFTs. For instance, the electron and hole mobilities typically found in ambipolar TFTs (ATFTs) are, typically, at least an order of magnitude smaller than those found in unipolar TFTs. Furthermore, for a variety of circuits, ATFTs should provide balanced currents during p- and n-channel operations. Regardless of the selection of materials, achieving these basic transistor properties is a very challenging task with the use of current device geometries. This dissertation presents research work performed on oxide TFTs, oxide TFT-based electronic circuits, organic-inorganic hybrid complementary inverters, organic-inorganic hybrid ambipolar TFTs, and ambipolar TFT-based complementary-like inverters in an attempt to overcome some of the current issues. The research performed first was to develop low-voltage and high-performance oxide TFTs, with an emphasis on n-channel oxide TFTs, using high-k and/or thin dielectrics as gate insulators. A high mobility electron transporting semiconductor, amorphous indium gallium zinc oxide (a-IGZO), was used as the n-channel active material. Such oxide TFTs were employed to demonstrate active matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) display backplane circuits operating at low voltage. Then, high-performance hybrid complementary inverters were developed using unipolar TFTs employing organic and inorganic semiconductors as p- and n-channel layers, respectively. An inorganic a-IGZO and pentacene, a widely used organic semiconductor, were used as the n- and p-channel semiconductors, respectively. By the integration of the p-channel organic and n-channel inorganic TFTs, high-gain complementary inverters with high and balanced noise margins were developed. A new approach to find the switching threshold voltage and the optimum value of the supply voltage to operate a complementary inverter was also proposed. Furthermore, we proposed a co-planar channel geometry for the realization of high-performance ambipolar TFTs. Using non-overlapping horizontal channels of pentacene and a-IGZO, we demonstrate hybrid organic-inorganic ambipolar TFTs with channels that show electrical properties comparable to those found in unipolar TFTs with the same channel aspect ratios. A key characteristic of this co-planar channel ambipolar TFT geometry is that the onset of ambipolar operation is mediated by a new operating regime where one of the channels can reach saturation while the other channel remains off. This allows these ambipolar TFTs to reach high on-off current ratios approaching 104. With the new design flexibility we demonstrated organic-inorganic hybrid ambipolar TFT-based complementary-like inverters, on rigid and flexible substrates, that show a significant improvement over the performance found in previously reported complementary-like inverters. From a materials perspective, this work shows that future breakthroughs in the performance of unipolar n-channel and p-channel semiconductors could be directly transposed into ambipolar transistors and circuits. Hence, we expect that this geometry will provide new strategies for the realization of high-performance ambipolar TFTs and novel ambipolar microelectronic circuits.
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