Plasma-Damage Free Efficiency Scaling of Micro-LEDs by Metal-Assisted Chemical Etching

Clarence Y. Chan, Henry C. Roberts, Yixin Xiao, Paul J. Froeter, Dane J. Sievers, Zetian Mi, Xiuling Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since its inception, LEDs have slowly transitioned from traditional solid-state lighting applications to full-color, self-emissive displays. Micro-LEDs (µLEDs) are poised to become the next mass-market technology for displays in lower pixel-density, large-area and mobile devices alongside emerging applications for high pixel-density augmented, virtual and mixed reality. However, it is well known that µLEDs suffer from efficiency cliff – a drastic efficiency reduction as device dimension reduces with increased severity at the single digit micron scale, often attributed to material damage from reactive ion etching (RIE) that is fundamental to the process. In this paper, a first-ever demonstration of µLED devices ranging from 45 µm down to 5 µm fabricated by the plasma-free metal-assisted chemical etching (MacEtch) is presented. These devices demonstrate converging external quantum efficiencies (EQE) irrespective of mesa dimension with a spread of only 3.7% without optimization. Additionally, a multi-pronged comparison between MacEtch and RIE is provided in terms of smoothness, material damage, macroscale uniformity and throughput. These findings carry profound implications for damage-free scaling of multi-heterojunction III-V optoelectronic devices, providing a pathway for high-density, high performance top-down fabricated µLED arrays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2302957
JournalAdvanced Optical Materials
Issue number15
Early online dateApr 3 2024
StatePublished - May 28 2024


  • EQE scaling
  • GaN
  • III-N heterojunction
  • MacEtch
  • metal-assisted chemical etching
  • microLED
  • nanofabrication
  • plasma damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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