On the origin of threading dislocations in GaN films

Moram, M A and Ghedia, C S and Rao, D V S and Barnard, J S and Zhang, Y and Kappers, M J and Humphreys, C J


A series of GaNfilms were grown by metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy on nitrided sapphire using an initial annealed low-temperature nucleation layer (LT-NL), without employing any conventional threading dislocation (TD) reduction methods. Film thicknesses ranging from the LT-NL to 500 nm were used. The island network morphology was investigated at each growth stage using atomic force microscopy. Data from cathodoluminescence studies showed initially uniform luminescence, followed by the gradual development of bright (low TD) regions which had lateral sizes different from the island sizes at all times and which continued to increase in size after coalescence. The formation of low-energy arrays of a-type TDs also continued after island coalescence. X-ray diffraction,transmission electron microscopy(TEM) and AFM data indicated that the highest (a+c)-type TD densities were found in the LT-NL, but subsequently decreased due to TD loop formation (promoted by island facets) and reaction to produce a-type TDs. a-type TD densities were also high in the LT-NL but subsequently increased slightly, due to the reaction of (a+c)-type TDs. A very sharp dynamical ‘correlation’ peak was also observed in XRD of the LT-NL, related to TDs with an a-component. Furthermore, defect formation was observed within the LT-NL using high-resolution TEM. These data are consistent with TD formation predominantly in the LT-NL, followed by TD movement at elevated growth temperatures. Initially, coalesced films had a high TD density with a spatially random TD arrangement, but progressively altered into a lower TD density, spatially clustered arrangement during growth. This type of microstructure may mistakenly be interpreted as arising from island coalescence.

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Department of Materials
Imperial College London
Royal School of Mines
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London, SW7 2AZ - UK