The importance of structural inhomogeneity in GaN thin films

Z. Liliental-Weber*, Roberto dos Reis, Jan L. Weyher, Grzegorz Staszczak, Rafał Jakieła

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper describes two types of MOCVD-grown n-type GaN layers (Samples A and B) with similar carrier concentration but behaved differently under galvanic photo-etching. In order to understand this behavior, Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) for cross-section and plan-view samples, Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy (SIMS) and photoluminescence (PL) techniques were applied. SIMS studies showed that Si, C and O are approximately at the same concentration in both samples, but Sample B also contained Fe and Mg. Both GaN samples were grown on sapphire substrate with Ga growth polarity, which was confirmed by Convergent Beam Electron Diffraction (CBED). Despite a smaller layer thickness in Sample B, the density of edge dislocations is almost one order of magnitude lower than in Sample A. In addition, planar defects formed in this sample in the transition area between the undoped buffer and Si doped layers resulted in a substantial decrease in the density of screw dislocations at the sample surface. These planar defects most probably gave rise to the PL lines observed at 3.42 eV and 3.32 eV. The new PL lines that only appeared in Sample B might be related to Mg impurities found in this sample. There were no detectable gettering of these impurities at dislocations using different diffraction conditions. However, Fe rich platelets were found only in Sample B due to the presence of Fe as well as hexagonal features, similar to defects reported earlier in highly Mg-doped GaN. These structural and chemical non-uniformities between the two GaN samples can explain their different etching behaviors. This paper demonstrates that samples with similar carrier concentrations do not necessarily ensure similar structural and optical properties and that additional material characterization are needed to ensure that devices built on such samples have similar performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-167
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Crystal Growth
StatePublished - Dec 15 2016


  • A1. Etching
  • A3. MOCVD
  • B1. Nitrides
  • Photoluminescence
  • Structural defects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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