Gallium nitride

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Gallium nitride
GaN Wurtzite polyhedra.png
IUPAC name
Gallium nitride
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.042.830
PubChem CID
RTECS number LW9640000
Molar mass 83.730 g/mol [1]
Appearanceyellow powder
Density 6.1 g/cm3 [1]
Melting point >2500 °C [1] [2]
Insoluble [3]
Band gap 3.4 eV (300 K, direct)
Electron mobility 1500 cm2/(V·s) (300 K) [4]
Thermal conductivity 1.3 W/(cm·K) (300 K) [5]
a = 3.186 Å, c = 5.186 Å [6]
−110.2 kJ/mol [7]
Flash point Non-flammable
Related compounds
Other anions
Gallium phosphide
Gallium arsenide
Gallium antimonide
Other cations
Boron nitride
Aluminium nitride
Indium nitride
Related compounds
Aluminium gallium arsenide
Indium gallium arsenide
Gallium arsenide phosphide
Aluminium gallium nitride
Indium gallium nitride
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Gallium nitride ( Ga N ) is a binary III/V direct bandgap semiconductor commonly used in light-emitting diodes since the 1990s. The compound is a very hard material that has a Wurtzite crystal structure. Its wide band gap of 3.4 eV affords it special properties for applications in optoelectronic, [8] [9] high-power and high-frequency devices. For example, GaN is the substrate which makes violet (405 nm) laser diodes possible, without use of nonlinear optical frequency-doubling.

Gallium Chemical element with atomic number 31

Gallium is a chemical element with symbol Ga and atomic number 31. It is in group 13 of the periodic table, and thus has similarities to the other metals of the group, aluminium, indium, and thallium. Gallium does not occur as a free element in nature, but as gallium(III) compounds in trace amounts in zinc ores and in bauxite. Elemental gallium is a soft, silvery blue metal at standard temperature and pressure, a brittle solid at low temperatures, and a liquid at temperatures greater than 29.76 °C (85.57 °F).

Nitrogen Chemical element with atomic number 7

Nitrogen is a chemical element with symbol N and atomic number 7. It was first discovered and isolated by Scottish physician Daniel Rutherford in 1772. Although Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Henry Cavendish had independently done so at about the same time, Rutherford is generally accorded the credit because his work was published first. The name nitrogène was suggested by French chemist Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal in 1790, when it was found that nitrogen was present in nitric acid and nitrates. Antoine Lavoisier suggested instead the name azote, from the Greek ἀζωτικός "no life", as it is an asphyxiant gas; this name is instead used in many languages, such as French, Russian, and Turkish, and appears in the English names of some nitrogen compounds such as hydrazine, azides and azo compounds.

Boron group group of chemical elements

The boron group are the chemical elements in group 13 of the periodic table, comprising boron (B), aluminium (Al), gallium (Ga), indium (In), thallium (Tl), and perhaps also the chemically uncharacterized nihonium (Nh). The elements in the boron group are characterized by having three electrons in their outer energy levels. These elements have also been referred to as the triels.


Its sensitivity to ionizing radiation is low (like other group III nitrides), making it a suitable material for solar cell arrays for satellites. Military and space applications could also benefit as devices have shown stability in radiation environments. [10]

Ionizing radiation radiation that carries enough energy to liberate electrons from atoms or molecules

Ionizing radiation is radiation that carries enough energy to detach electrons from atoms or molecules, thereby ionizing them. Ionizing radiation is made up of energetic subatomic particles, ions or atoms moving at high speeds, and electromagnetic waves on the high-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

In chemistry, a nitride is a compound of nitrogen where nitrogen has a formal oxidation state of −3. Nitrides are a large class of compounds with a wide range of properties and applications.

Solar cell electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect

A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell, is an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect, which is a physical and chemical phenomenon. It is a form of photoelectric cell, defined as a device whose electrical characteristics, such as current, voltage, or resistance, vary when exposed to light. Individual solar cell devices can be combined to form modules, otherwise known as solar panels. In basic terms a single junction silicon solar cell can produce a maximum open-circuit voltage of approximately 0.5 to 0.6 volts.

Because GaN transistors can operate at much higher temperatures and work at much higher voltages than gallium arsenide (GaAs) transistors, they make ideal power amplifiers at microwave frequencies. In addition, GaN offers promising characteristics for THz devices. [11]

Gallium arsenide chemical compound

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is a compound of the elements gallium and arsenic. It is a III-V direct bandgap semiconductor with a zinc blende crystal structure.

Terahertz radiation radio waves

Terahertz radiation – also known as submillimeter radiation, terahertz waves, tremendously high frequency (THF), T-rays, T-waves, T-light, T-lux or THz – consists of electromagnetic waves within the ITU-designated band of frequencies from 0.3 to 3 terahertz (THz). One terahertz is 1012 Hz or 1000 GHz. Wavelengths of radiation in the terahertz band correspondingly range from 1 mm to 0.1 mm (or 100 μm). Because terahertz radiation begins at a wavelength of one millimeter and proceeds into shorter wavelengths, it is sometimes known as the submillimeter band, and its radiation as submillimeter waves, especially in astronomy.

Physical properties

GaN crystal Crystal-GaN.jpg
GaN crystal

GaN is a very hard (12±2 GPa [12] :4), mechanically stable wide bandgap semiconductor material with high heat capacity and thermal conductivity. [13] In its pure form it resists cracking and can be deposited in thin film on sapphire or silicon carbide, despite the mismatch in their lattice constants. [13] GaN can be doped with silicon (Si) or with oxygen [14] to n-type and with magnesium (Mg) to p-type. [15] However, the Si and Mg atoms change the way the GaN crystals grow, introducing tensile stresses and making them brittle. [16] Gallium nitride compounds also tend to have a high dislocation density, on the order of 108 to 1010 defects per square centimeter. [17] The wide band-gap behavior of GaN is connected to specific changes in the electronic band structure, charge occupation and chemical bond regions. [18]

Heat capacity intensive physical property

Heat capacity or thermal capacity is a measurable physical quantity equal to the ratio of the heat added to an object to the resulting temperature change. The unit of heat capacity is joule per kelvin , or kilogram metre squared per kelvin second squared in the International System of Units (SI). The dimensional form is L2MT−2Θ−1. Specific heat is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of mass by 1 kelvin.

A thin film is a layer of material ranging from fractions of a nanometer (monolayer) to several micrometers in thickness. The controlled synthesis of materials as thin films is a fundamental step in many applications. A familiar example is the household mirror, which typically has a thin metal coating on the back of a sheet of glass to form a reflective interface. The process of silvering was once commonly used to produce mirrors, while more recently the metal layer is deposited using techniques such as sputtering. Advances in thin film deposition techniques during the 20th century have enabled a wide range of technological breakthroughs in areas such as magnetic recording media, electronic semiconductor devices, LEDs, optical coatings, hard coatings on cutting tools, and for both energy generation and storage. It is also being applied to pharmaceuticals, via thin-film drug delivery. A stack of thin films is called a multilayer.

Sapphire gemstone, colored corundum variety (but red ones are named ruby, violet ones oriental amethyst)

Sapphire is a precious gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum, consisting of aluminium oxide (α-Al2O3) with trace amounts of elements such as iron, titanium, chromium, copper, or magnesium. It is typically blue, but natural "fancy" sapphires also occur in yellow, purple, orange, and green colors; "parti sapphires" show two or more colors. The only color that sapphire cannot be is red – as red colored corundum is called ruby, another corundum variety. Pink colored corundum may be either classified as ruby or sapphire depending on locale. Commonly, natural sapphires are cut and polished into gemstones and worn in jewelry. They also may be created synthetically in laboratories for industrial or decorative purposes in large crystal boules. Because of the remarkable hardness of sapphires – 9 on the Mohs scale (the third hardest mineral, after diamond at 10 and moissanite at 9.5) – sapphires are also used in some non-ornamental applications, such as infrared optical components, high-durability windows, wristwatch crystals and movement bearings, and very thin electronic wafers, which are used as the insulating substrates of very special-purpose solid-state electronics (especially integrated circuits and GaN-based LEDs).


GaN with a high crystalline quality can be obtained by depositing a buffer layer at low temperatures. [19] Such high-quality GaN led to the discovery of p-type GaN, [15] p-n junction blue/UV-LEDs [15] and room-temperature stimulated emission [20] (essential for laser action). [21] This has led to the commercialization of high-performance blue LEDs and long-lifetime violet-laser diodes, and to the development of nitride-based devices such as UV detectors and high-speed field-effect transistors.

The field-effect transistor (FET) is an electronic device which uses an electric field to control the flow of current. This is achieved by the application of a voltage to the gate terminal, which in turn alters the conductivity between the drain and source terminals.


High-brightness GaN light-emitting diodes (LEDs) completed the range of primary colors, and made applications such as daylight visible full-color LED displays, white LEDs and blue laser devices possible. The first GaN-based high-brightness LEDs used a thin film of GaN deposited via Metal-Organic Vapour Phase Epitaxy (MOVPE) on sapphire. Other substrates used are zinc oxide, with lattice constant mismatch of only 2% and silicon carbide (SiC). [22] Group III nitride semiconductors are, in general, recognized as one of the most promising semiconductor families for fabricating optical devices in the visible short-wavelength and UV region.

Laser device which emits light via optical amplification

A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation". The first laser was built in 1960 by Theodore H. Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories, based on theoretical work by Charles Hard Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow.

Zinc oxide chemical compound

Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound with the formula ZnO. ZnO is a white powder that is insoluble in water, and it is widely used as an additive in numerous materials and products including rubbers, plastics, ceramics, glass, cement, lubricants, paints, ointments, adhesives, sealants, pigments, foods, batteries, ferrites, fire retardants, and first-aid tapes. Although it occurs naturally as the mineral zincite, most zinc oxide is produced synthetically.

Lattice constant

The lattice constant, or lattice parameter, refers to the physical dimension of unit cells in a crystal lattice. Lattices in three dimensions generally have three lattice constants, referred to as a, b, and c. However, in the special case of cubic crystal structures, all of the constants are equal and we only refer to a. Similarly, in hexagonal crystal structures, the a and b constants are equal, and we only refer to the a and c constants. A group of lattice constants could be referred to as lattice parameters. However, the full set of lattice parameters consist of the three lattice constants and the three angles between them.


The very high breakdown voltages, [23] high electron mobility and saturation velocity of GaN has also made it an ideal candidate for high-power and high-temperature microwave applications, as evidenced by its high Johnson's figure of merit. Potential markets for high-power/high-frequency devices based on GaN include microwave radio-frequency power amplifiers (such as those used in high-speed wireless data transmission) and high-voltage switching devices for power grids. A potential mass-market application for GaN-based RF transistors is as the microwave source for microwave ovens, replacing the magnetrons currently used. The large band gap means that the performance of GaN transistors is maintained up to higher temperatures (~400 °C [24] ) than silicon transistors (~150 °C [24] ) because it lessens the effects of thermal generation of charge carriers that are inherent to any semiconductor. The first gallium nitride metal semiconductor field-effect transistors (GaN MESFET) were experimentally demonstrated in 1993 [25] and they are being actively developed.

In 2010 the first enhancement-mode GaN transistors became generally available. [26] Only n-channel transistors were available. [26] These devices were designed to replace power MOSFETs in applications where switching speed or power conversion efficiency is critical. These transistors, also called eGaN FETs, are built by growing a thin layer of GaN on top of a standard silicon wafer. This allows the eGaN FETs to maintain costs similar to silicon power MOSFETs but with the superior electrical performance of GaN.



GaN-based violet laser diodes are used to read Blu-ray Discs. The mixture of GaN with In (InGaN) or Al (AlGaN) with a band gap dependent on ratio of In or Al to GaN allows the manufacture of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) with colors that can go from red to ultra-violet. [22]


GaN transistors are suitable for high frequency, high voltage, high temperature and high efficiency applications.

GaN HEMTs have been offered commercially since 2006, and have found immediate use in various wireless infrastructure applications due to their high efficiency and high voltage operation. A second generation of devices with shorter gate lengths will address higher frequency telecom and aerospace applications. [27]

GaN based MOSFET and MESFET transistors also offer advantages including lower loss in high power electronics, especially in automotive and electric car applications. [28] Since 2008 these can be formed on a silicon substrate. [28] High-voltage (800 V) Schottky barrier diodes (SBDs) have also been made. [28]

They are also utilized in military electronics such as active electronically scanned array radars. [29]

GaN-based electronics (not pure GaN) has the potential to drastically cut energy consumption, not only in consumer applications but even for power transmission utilities.

Unlike silicon transistors which switch off due to power surges, GaN transistors are typically depletion mode devices (i.e. on / resistive when the gate-source voltage is zero). Several methods have been proposed to reach normally-off (or E-mode) operation, which is necessary for use in power electronics: [30] [31]


GaN nanotubes are proposed for applications in nanoscale electronics, optoelectronics and biochemical-sensing applications. [32]

Spintronics potential

When doped with a suitable transition metal such as manganese, GaN is a promising spintronics material (magnetic semiconductors). [22]


Bulk substrates

GaN crystals can be grown from a molten Na/Ga melt held under 100 atmospheres of pressure of N2 at 750 °C. As Ga will not react with N2 below 1000 °C, the powder must be made from something more reactive, usually in one of the following ways:

2 Ga + 2 NH3 → 2 GaN + 3 H2 [33]
Ga2O3 + 2 NH3 → 2 GaN + 3 H2O [34]

Gallium nitride can also be synthesized by injecting ammonia gas into molten gallium at 900-980 °C at normal atmospheric pressure. [35]

Molecular beam epitaxy

Commercially, GaN crystals can be grown using molecular beam epitaxy or metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy. This process can be further modified to reduce dislocation densities. First, an ion beam is applied to the growth surface in order to create nanoscale roughness. Then, the surface is polished. This process takes place in a vacuum.


GaN dust is an irritant to skin, eyes and lungs. The environment, health and safety aspects of gallium nitride sources (such as trimethylgallium and ammonia) and industrial hygiene monitoring studies of MOVPE sources have been reported recently in a review. [36]

Bulk GaN is non-toxic and biocompatible. [37] Therefore, it may be used in the electrodes and electronics of implants in living organisms.

See also

Related Research Articles

Light-emitting diode semiconductor light source

A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor light source that emits light when current flows through it. Electrons in the semiconductor recombine with electron holes, releasing energy in the form of photons. This effect is called electroluminescence. The color of the light is determined by the energy required for electrons to cross the band gap of the semiconductor. White light is obtained by using multiple semiconductors or a layer of light-emitting phosphor on the semiconductor device.

Transistor semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.

Semiconductor devices are electronic components that exploit the electronic properties of semiconductor material, principally silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide, as well as organic semiconductors. Semiconductor devices have replaced thermionic devices in most applications. They use electronic conduction in the solid state as opposed to the gaseous state or thermionic emission in a high vacuum.

Band gap energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist; energy difference (in electron volts) between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band in insulators and semiconductors

In solid-state physics, a band gap, also called an energy gap or bandgap, is an energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist. In graphs of the electronic band structure of solids, the band gap generally refers to the energy difference between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band in insulators and semiconductors. It is the energy required to promote a valence electron bound to an atom to become a conduction electron, which is free to move within the crystal lattice and serve as a charge carrier to conduct electric current. It is closely related to the HOMO/LUMO gap in chemistry. If the valence band is completely full and the conduction band is completely empty, then electrons cannot move in the solid; however, if some electrons transfer from the valence to the conduction band, then current can flow. Therefore, the band gap is a major factor determining the electrical conductivity of a solid. Substances with large band gaps are generally insulators, those with smaller band gaps are semiconductors, while conductors either have very small band gaps or none, because the valence and conduction bands overlap.

Silicon carbide semiconductor containing silicon and carbon

Silicon carbide (SiC), also known as carborundum, is a semiconductor containing silicon and carbon. It occurs in nature as the extremely rare mineral moissanite. Synthetic SiC powder has been mass-produced since 1893 for use as an abrasive. Grains of silicon carbide can be bonded together by sintering to form very hard ceramics that are widely used in applications requiring high endurance, such as car brakes, car clutches and ceramic plates in bulletproof vests. Electronic applications of silicon carbide such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and detectors in early radios were first demonstrated around 1907. SiC is used in semiconductor electronics devices that operate at high temperatures or high voltages, or both. Large single crystals of silicon carbide can be grown by the Lely method and they can be cut into gems known as synthetic moissanite. SiC with high surface area can be produced from SiO2 contained in plant material.

Molecular-beam epitaxy Crystal growth process

Molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) is an epitaxy method for thin-film deposition of single crystals. The MBE process was developed in the late 1960s at Bell Telephone Laboratories by J. R. Arthur and Alfred Y. Cho. MBE is widely used in the manufacture of semiconductor devices, including transistors, and it is considered one of the fundamental tools for the development of nanotechnologies.

Tunnel diode type of semiconductor diode

A tunnel diode or Esaki diode is a type of semiconductor diode that has negative resistance due to the quantum mechanical effect called tunneling. It was invented in August 1957 by Leo Esaki, Yuriko Kurose, and Takashi Suzuki when they were working at Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, now known as Sony. In 1973, Esaki received the Nobel Prize in Physics, jointly with Brian Josephson, for discovering the electron tunneling effect used in these diodes. Robert Noyce independently devised the idea of a tunnel diode while working for William Shockley, but was discouraged from pursuing it. Tunnel diodes were first manufactured by Sony in 1957, followed by General Electric and other companies from about 1960, and are still made in low volume today.

In semiconductor production, doping is the intentional introduction of impurities into an intrinsic semiconductor for the purpose of modulating its electrical, optical and structural properties. The doped material is referred to as an extrinsic semiconductor. A semiconductor doped to such high levels that it acts more like a conductor than a semiconductor is referred to as a degenerate semiconductor.

Blue laser

A blue laser is a laser that emits electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength between 360 and 480 nanometres, which the human eye sees as blue or violet.

The term high-κ dielectric refers to a material with a high dielectric constant κ. High-κ dielectrics are used in semiconductor manufacturing processes where they are usually used to replace a silicon dioxide gate dielectric or another dielectric layer of a device. The implementation of high-κ gate dielectrics is one of several strategies developed to allow further miniaturization of microelectronic components, colloquially referred to as extending Moore's Law.

Strained silicon

Strained silicon is a layer of silicon in which the silicon atoms are stretched beyond their normal interatomic distance. This can be accomplished by putting the layer of silicon over a substrate of silicon germanium (SiGe). As the atoms in the silicon layer align with the atoms of the underlying silicon germanium layer, the links between the silicon atoms become stretched - thereby leading to strained silicon. Moving these silicon atoms farther apart reduces the atomic forces that interfere with the movement of electrons through the transistors and thus better mobility, resulting in better chip performance and lower energy consumption. These electrons can move 70% faster allowing strained silicon transistors to switch 35% faster.

Indium gallium nitride chemical compound

Indium gallium nitride is a semiconductor material made of a mix of gallium nitride (GaN) and indium nitride (InN). It is a ternary group III/group V direct bandgap semiconductor. Its bandgap can be tuned by varying the amount of indium in the alloy. InxGa1−xN has a direct bandgap span from the infrared for InN to the ultraviolet of GaN. The ratio of In/Ga is usually between 0.02/0.98 and 0.3/0.7.

Aluminium gallium indium phosphide chemical compound

Aluminium gallium indium phosphide is a semiconductor material that provides a platform for the development of novel multi-junction photovoltaics and optoelectronic devices, as it spans a direct bandgap from deep ultraviolet to infrared.

Isamu Akasaki Japanese scientist, inventor of high-brightness GaN blue LED

Isamu Akasaki is a Japanese physicist, specializing in the field of semiconductor technology and Nobel Prize laureate, best known for inventing the bright gallium nitride (GaN) p-n junction blue LED in 1989 and subsequently the high-brightness GaN blue LED as well.

In solid-state physics, a metal–semiconductor (M–S) junction is a type of junction in which a metal comes in close contact with a semiconductor material. It is the oldest practical semiconductor device. M–S junctions can either be rectifying or non-rectifying. The rectifying metal–semiconductor junction forms a Schottky barrier, making a device known as a Schottky diode, while the non-rectifying junction is called an ohmic contact.

IQE is a British semiconductor company founded 1988 in Cardiff, Wales which manufactures advanced epitaxial wafers for a wide range of technology applications for wireless, optoelectronic, electronic and solar devices. IQE specialises in advanced silicon and compound semiconductor materials based on gallium arsenide (GaAs), indium phosphide (InP), gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon. The company is the largest independent outsource producer of epiwafers manufactured by metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy (MOCVD), molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD).

Hiroshi Amano Japanese physicist, 2014 Nobel laureate in Physics

Hiroshi Amano is a Japanese physicist and inventor specializing in the field of semiconductor technology. For his work he was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Isamu Akasaki and Shuji Nakamura for "the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources".

Indium aluminium nitride (InAlN) is a direct bandgap semiconductor material used in the manufacture of electronic and photonic devices. It is part of the III-V group of semiconductors, being an alloy of indium nitride and aluminium nitride, and is closely related to the more widely used gallium nitride. It is of special interest in applications requiring good stability and reliability, owing to its large direct bandgap and ability to maintain operation at temperatures of up to 1000 °C., making it of particular interest to areas such as the space industry. InAlN high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs) are attractive candidates for such applications owing to the ability of InAlN to lattice-match to gallium nitride, eliminating a reported failure route in the closely related aluminium gallium nitride HEMTs.


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