Efforts to exploit reduced dimensionality systems in semiconductor devices are presently driven by the continuing need to improve speed performance, transport efficiency, device density, and power management. In this work, we investigate the performance of novel GaAs/AlGaAs and InGaAs/InAlAs heterostructures for high-speed photodetector devices. First, a modulation-doped AlGaAs/GaAs device, suitable for monolithic integration with planar HEMT and FET devices, produces a built-in electric field that aids in the high-speed collection of photogenerated carriers. Surface Schottky electrodes on this structure form a planar interdigitated metal-semiconductor-metal (MSM) device for use at 850-nm wavelength. A second structure, an InGaAs/InAlAs quantum-well MSM photodetector for use at 1550-nm wavelength, utilizes recessed electrodes to contact directly the two-dimensional (2D) transport channel. Unfortunately, rather low Schottky barrier heights on undoped InGaAs lead to excessive dark currents when metal contacts are deposited directly on this material. To remedy this situation, we propose to form barrier-enhancement regions between the optically active 2D-quantum well and the lateral 3D-metal contacts by means of ion-implantation-induced quantum-well intermixing. Results indicate a reduction in dark current of nearly three orders of magnitude. Additionally, the high-speed performance appears not to be adversely affected under normal operating conditions by the potentially deleterious effects of carrier emission and accumulation at these heterojunction interfaces. The Fourier transform of a simulated transient current response to a light impulse indicates an electrical 3-dB bandwidth in excess of 50 GHz in a device with a recessed electrode gap of 1 μm.