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Title: Stability of Amorphous Silicon Thin Film Transistors and Circuits
Authors: Liu, Ting
Advisors: Sturm, James C
Contributors: Electrical Engineering Department
Keywords: a-Si TFTs
fabrication conditions
two-stage model
voltage-programmed pixel circuit
Subjects: Engineering
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Hydrogenated amorphous silicon thin-film transistors (a-Si:H TFTs) have been widely used for the active-matrix addressing of flat panel displays, optical scanners and sensors. Extending the application of the a-Si TFTs from switches to current sources, which requires continuous operation such as for active-matrix organic light-emitting-diode (AMOLED) pixels, makes stability a critical issue. This thesis first presents a two-stage model for the stability characterization and reliable lifetime prediction for highly stable a-Si TFTs under low gate-field stress. Two stages of the threshold voltage shift are identified from the decrease of the drain saturation current under low-gate field. The first initial stage dominates up to hours or days near room temperature. It can be characterized with a stretched-exponential model, with the underlying physical mechanism of charge trapping in the gate dielectric. The second stage dominates in the long term and then saturates. It corresponds to the breaking of weak bonds in the amorphous silicon. It can be modeled with a "unified stretched exponential fit," in which a thermalization energy is used to unify experimental measurements of drain current decay at different temperatures into a single curve. Two groups of experiments were conducted to reduce the drain current instability of a-Si TFTs under prolonged gate bias. Deposition conditions for the silicon nitride (SiNx) gate insulator and the a-Si channel layer were varied, and TFTs were fabricated with all reactive ion etching steps, or with all wet etching steps, the latter in a new process. The two-stage model that unites charge trapping in the SiNx gate dielectric and defect generation in the a-Si channel was used to interpret the experimental results. We identified the optimal substrate temperature, gas flow ratios, and RF deposition power densities. The stability of the a-Si channel depends also on the deposition conditions for the underlying SiNx gate insulator. TFTs made with wet etching are more stable than TFTs made with reactive ion etching. Combining the various improvements raised the extrapolated 50% decay time of the drain current of back channel passivated dry-etched TFTs under continuous operation at 20°C from 3.3 × 104 sec (9.2 hours) to 4.4 × 107 sec (1.4 years). The 50% lifetime can be further improved by ~2 times through wet etching process. Two assumptions in the two-stage model were revisited. First, the distribution of the gap state density in a-Si was obtained with the field-effect technique. The redistribution of the gap state density after low-gate field stress supports the idea that defect creation in a-Si dominates in the long term. Second, the drain-bias dependence of drain current degradation was measured and modeled. The unified stretched exponential was validated for a-Si TFTs operating in saturation. Finally, a new 3-TFT voltage-programmed pixel circuit with an in-pixel current source is presented. This circuit is largely insensitive to the TFT threshold voltage shift. The fabricated pixel circuit provides organic light-emitting diode (OLED) currents ranging from 25 nA to 2.9 µA, an on/off ratio of 116 at typical quarter graphics display resolution (QVGA) display timing. The overall conclusion of this thesis research is that the operating life of a-Si TFTs can be quite long, and that these transistors can expect to find yet more applications in large area electronics.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Electrical Engineering

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