The effects of power and time conditions of in situ $hbox{N}_{2}$ plasma treatment, prior to silicon nitride (SiN) passivation, were investigated on an AlGaN/GaN high-electron mobility transistor (HEMT). These studies reveal that $hbox{N}_{2}$ plasma power is a critical parameter to control the SiN/AlGaN interface quality, which directly affects the 2-D electron gas density. Significant enhancement in the HEMT characteristics was observed by using a low power $hbox{N}_{2}$ plasma pretreatment. In contrast, a marked gradual reduction in the maximum drain–source current density $(I_{DS max})$ and maximum transconductance $(g_{m max})$, as well as in $f_{T}$ and $f_{max}$, was observed as the $hbox{N}_{2}$ plasma power increases (up to 40% decrease for 210 W). Different mechanisms were proposed to be dominant as a function of the discharge power range. A good correlation was observed between the device electrical characteristics and the surface assessment by atomic force microscopy and Kelvin force microscopy techniques.

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