Electrical and Computer Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2023


One of the most promising solid-state devices for fast switching and radio frequency generation applications is the photoconductive switch (PCSS). These devices have been thoroughly explored since the late 1980s and exhibit remarkable switching properties in gallium arsenide (GaAs). With recent advances in wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor manufacturing processes, there has been an increasing interest in using WBG semiconductors to implement PCSS. WBG semiconductors could exhibit the same switching characteristics as GaAs while overcoming their poor power management and short lifetime under pulsed power conditions, making PCSS a reliable option in high-power applications. Gallium Nitride (GaN) has emerged as one of the WBG semiconductors with the greatest potential to replace GaAs in PCSS devices; however, there is still no agreement on the physical phenomenon that describes the behavior of PCSS in its various modes of operation, which has hampered the development of GaN-based PCSS. While various studies have documented linear mode observations in WGB-based PCSS, the nonlinear or high-gain mode has proven more difficult to detect than expected. Recent studies conducted at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Ionization, Discharge, and Applied Pulsed Energy have collected evidence of nonlinear gain mode behavior in lateral GaN-based PCSS devices with electric fields below 30 kV/cm and optical energies of the tens of microjoules. The purpose of the experiments was to identify the effectiveness of different near IR wavelengths generated by commercially available high-power laser diodes and to verify that during non-linear mode closing events, surface flashover and air breakdown do not occur.


Gallium Nitride, Photoconductive Semiconductor Switch PCSS, Semiconductor Devices, Lasers



Document Type




Degree Name

Electrical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Jane Lehr

Second Committee Member

Ali Bidram

Third Committee Member

Andrew Fierro

Third Advisor

Harold Hjarlmarson