Electrical and Computer Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-30-2018


The energy demands of an increasingly electrified world have caused a renewed interest in once dormant fields of research. Photoconductive Semiconductor switches (PCSS) are one of these fields. They theoretically offer high voltage, high current switching in sub cm3 packaging, without the shot to shot variation and bulk of current high-power DC switches such as spark gaps. PCSS are capable of power densities of 109-1010 W/cm3, with electric fields ranging from 105-106 V/cm and current densities from 104-106 A/cm2 [1].

Most PCSS make a trade-off between voltage, current, and durability, which make them unsuitable for applications which require all three. GaN PCSS appear to offer the most potential, combining high hold-off voltages with high repetition rates and current handling capability. However, it is only recently that fabrication of GaN has reached a maturity level suitable for PCSS research and as a result they are not as well characterized as PCSS utilizing GaAs or SiC. The theoretical performance of GaN PCSS is greater than that of other materials, particularly if GaN can be shown to have a nonlinear mode of operation, reducing laser power needed to trigger the device.

Along with an in-depth characterization, the potential existence of a "high-gain" mode of operation in optically triggered GaN solid-state lateral switches across a variety of voltages, triggering wavelengths, and triggering energies is examined.


GaN, PCSS, nonlinear, high gain PCSS, photoconductive semiconductor switch, AlN


Sandia National Laboratories, Air Force Research Laboratory, University of New Mexico

Document Type


Degree Name

Electrical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Jane Lehr

Second Committee Member

Salvador Portillo

Third Committee Member

Olga Lavrova