Scattering due to interface-roughness (IR) and longitudinal-optical (LO) phonons are primary transport mechanisms in terahertz quantum-cascade lasers (QCLs). By choosing GaAs/Al0.10
As heterostructures with short-barriers, the effect of IR scattering is mitigated, leading to low operating current-densities. A series of resonant-phonon terahertz QCLs developed over time, achieving some of the lowest threshold and peak current-densities among published terahertz QCLs with maximum operating temperatures above 100 K. The best result is obtained for a three-well 3.1 THz QCL with threshold and peak current-densities of 134 A/cm2
and 208 A/cm2
respectively at 53 K, and a maximum lasing temperature of 135 K. Another three-well QCL designed for broadband bidirectional operation achieved lasing in a combined frequency range of 3.1–3.7 THz operating under both positive and negative polarities, with an operating current-density range of 167–322 A/cm2
at 53 K and maximum lasing temperature of 141 K or 121 K depending on the polarity of the applied bias. By showing results from QCLs developed over a period of time, here we show conclusively that short-barrier terahertz QCLs are effective in achieving low current-density operation at the cost of a reduction in peak temperature performance.
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