IEEE PHOTONICS TECHNOLOGY LETTERS, vol.30, no.23, pp.1997-2000, 2018 (SCI-Expanded)
Optical power output is the most sought-after quantity in laser engineering. This is also true for quantum cascade lasers operating especially at long wavelengths. Buried heterostructure cascade lasers with epitaxial regrowth have typically shown the lowest loss due to high current confinement as well as superior lateral thermal conductivity at the expense of complexity and cost. Among the many factors affecting optical output are the widely used passivating materials such as Si3N4 and SiO2. These materials have substantial optical absorption in the long wavelength infrared, which results in optical loss reducing the output of the laser. In this letter, we report on quantum cascade lasers with various waveguide widths and cavity lengths using both PECVD grown Si3N4 and e-beam evaporated HfO2 as passivating material on the same structure. Their slope efficiency was measured, and the cavity losses for the two lasers were calculated. We show that HfO2 passivated lasers have approximately 5.5 cm(-1) lower cavity loss compared to Si3N4 passivated lasers. We observe up to 38% reduction in lasing threshold current, for lasers with HfO2 passivation. We model the losses of the cavity due to both insulator and metal contacts of the lasers using Comsol Multiphysics for various widths. We find that the loss due to absorption in the dielectric is a significant effect for Si3N4 passivated lasers and lasers in the 8-12-mu m range may benefit from low loss passivation materials such as HfO2. Our results suggest that low-loss long wavelength quantum cascade lasers can be realized without epitaxial overgrowth.