The development of a thermal model for quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) is presented. The model is used in conjunction with a self-consistent scattering rate calculation of the electron dynamics of an InGaAs-AlAsSb QCL to calculate the temperature distribution throughout the device which can be a limiting factor for high temperature operation. The model is used to investigate the effects of various driving conditions and device geometries, such as epilayer down bonding and buried heterostructures, on the active region temperature. It is found that buried heterostructures have a factor of eight decrease in thermal time constants compared to standard ridge waveguide structures in pulsed mode and allow a /spl sim/78% increase in heat sink temperature compared to epilayer down mounted devices in continuous-wave mode. The model presented provides a valuable tool for understanding the thermal dynamics inside a quantum cascade laser and will help to improve their operating temperatures
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