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NRL Demonstrates Growth of Thin-Film Niobium Nitride

The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has demonstrated the ability to grow thin films of the transition-metal nitride Nb2N (niobium nitride). The thin crystalline material has a similar structure to gallium nitride (GaN), but its electrical and physical properties are dramatically different. For example, Nb2N is metallic instead of semiconducting and can become superconductive at cryogenic temperatures.

“We have determined that Nb2N has several unique properties that can lead to the realization of new microelectronic devices and circuits,” says Dr David Meyer, section head for wide-bandgap materials and devices in the Electronics Science and Technology Division.

One property of the new material is how it dissolves away in a reactive gas, while leaving nearby GaN electronics untouched. By inserting a thin layer of Nb2N between a GaN transistor, LED, or circuit and the substrate on which the material is grown, Meyer and his team can perform a patent-pending lift-off technique, which allows it to be transferred onto nearly anything, it is reckoned.

“We have this method and it’s really flexible,” says Meyer. “We anticipate that there are several applications that would benefit from having GaN technology integrated at the device or circuit level,” he adds.

NRL’s patents and/or patent applications are available for licensing and collaboration via its Technology Transfer Office. The research was developed with funding from the US Office of Naval Research and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).


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