Electromechanical phenomena in semiconductor nanostructures

L. C. Lew Yan Voon, M. Willatzen

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewpeer-review


Electromechanical phenomena in semiconductors are still poorly studied from a fundamental and an applied science perspective, even though significant strides have been made in the last decade or so. Indeed, most current electromechanical devices are based on ferroelectric oxides. Yet, the importance of the effect in certain semiconductors is being increasingly recognized. For instance, the magnitude of the electric field in an AlN/GaN nanostructure can reach 1-10 MV/cm. In fact, the basic functioning of an (0001) AlGaN/GaN high electron mobility transistor is due to the two-dimensional electron gas formed at the material interface by the polarization fields. The goal of this review is to inform the reader of some of the recent developments in the field for nanostructures and to point out still open questions. Examples of recent work that involves the piezoelectric and pyroelectric effects in semiconductors include: the study of the optoelectronic properties of III-nitrides quantum wells and dots, the current controversy regarding the importance of the nonlinear piezoelectric effect, energy harvesting using ZnO nanowires as a piezoelectric nanogenerator, the use of piezoelectric materials in surface acoustic wave devices, and the appropriateness of various models for analyzing electromechanical effects. Piezoelectric materials such as GaN and ZnO are gaining more and more importance for energy-related applications; examples include high-brightness light-emitting diodes for white lighting, high-electron mobility transistors, and nanogenerators. Indeed, it remains to be demonstrated whether these materials could be the ideal multifunctional materials. The solutions to these and other related problems will not only lead to a better understanding of the basic physics of these materials, but will validate new characterization tools, and advance the development of new and better devices. We will restrict ourselves to nanostructures in the current article even though the measurements and calculations of the bulk electromechanical coefficients remain challenging. Much of the literature has focused on InGaN/GaN, AlGaN/GaN, ZnMgO/ZnO, and ZnCdO/ZnO quantum wells, and InAs/GaAs and AlGaN/AlN quantum dots for their optoelectronic properties; and work on the bending of nanowires have been mostly for GaN and ZnO nanowires. We hope the present review article will stimulate further research into the field of electromechanical phenomena and help in the development of applications. (C) 2011 American Institute of Physics. [doi:10.1063/1.3533402]
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)031101
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Physics
  • Field-effect transistors
  • Surface acoustic-waves
  • Piezoresponse force microscopy
  • Strained-layer superlattices
  • Quantum-confined stark
  • Single ZNO nanowire
  • III-V nitrides
  • Piezoelectric fields
  • Spontaneous polarization
  • Electronic-structure


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