The demand to produce reliable THz detectors and emitters has lead to a signicant improvement of the Quantum Cascade Lasers (QCLs). First demonstrated in 1994 in the mid-infrared range, these unipolar semiconductor lasers are one of the most promising photonic sources for THz emission. Nevertheless, various optical loss phenomena limit their performances and the improvement of these devices is intensively researched. Among the possible loss sources, the Free Carrier Absorption (FCA), that arises from intra- and inter-subband oblique transitions activated by any disorder source destroying the translational invariance in the layer plane, has to be accurately modeled. FCA is well documented for bulk materials where the semiclassical Drude model can be used. For QCLs, this model predicts FCA coefficients that are comparable or larger than the actual QCL gains.
This work presents a quantum modeling of FCA in quantum cascade structures following two theoretical approaches : a perturbative expansion at the first order in the disorder potential and a numerical diagonalization of the Hamiltonian in presence of disorder. These calculations show that FCA is very small in QCLs and radically differs from the semiclassical Drude result. Moreover, they point out the different contributions to the absorption spectrum and the possibility of ajusting the absorption linewidth and lineshape by dopant engineering. Important disorder-induced localization effects have been identified as well as their non negligible influence on the electronic scattering rates.