We present an innovative approach for the growth of crystalline silicon on GaAs using plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD). In this process the substrate is kept at low temperature (175 °C) and epitaxial growth is obtained via the impact of charged silicon clusters which are accelerated towards the substrate by the plasma-potential and melt upon impact. Therefore, this is a nanometer size epitaxial process where the local temperature (nm scale) rises above the melting temperature of silicon for extremely short times (in the range from ps to ns). This allows obtaining epitaxial growth even on relatively rough GaAs films, which have been cleaned in-situ using a SiF<sub>4</sub> plasma etching. We present in-plane X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) measurements which are consistent with the hypothesis that the epitaxial growth happens at a local high temperature. Indeed, the tetragonal structure observed and the low in-plane lattice parameter determined from XRD can only be explained by the thermal mismatch induced by a high growth temperature. The effect of the plasma on the underlying GaAs properties, in particular the formation of hydrogen complexes with GaAs dopants (C, Si, Te) is studied in view of the integration of the c-Si epi-layers into devices.
We fabricated (n) c-Si/ (p) GaAs heterojunctions, by combining low temperature (∼175°C) RF-PECVD for Si and metal organic vapor phase epitaxy for GaAs, aiming at producing hybrid tunnel junctions for Si/III-V tandem solar cells. The electrical properties of these heterojunctions were measured and compared to that of a reference III-V tunnel junction. Several challenges in the fabrication of such heterostructures were identified and we especially focused in this study on the impact of atomic hydrogen present in the plasma used for the deposition of silicon on p-doped GaAs doping level. The obtained results show that hydrogenation by H2 plasma strongly reduces the doping level at the surface of the GaAs:C grown film. Thirty seconds of H2 plasma exposition at 175°C are sufficient to reduce the GaAs film doping level from 1×1020 cm−3 to <1×1019 cm−3 at the surface and over a depth of about 20 nm. Such strong reduction of the doping level is critical for the performance of the tunnel junction. However, the doping level can be fully recovered after annealing at 350°C.