GaN films doped with rare earth (RE) elements have attracted considerable attention due to the unique optical luminescent properties of the RE intra 4ƒ(n)-shell electron transitions which lead to sharp blue (Tm), green (Er) and red (Eu) emissions. This paper presents an overview of investigations of GaN films implanted with each of these ions using a combination of electron-beam and optical techniques. The ion implantations were performed under a wide range of conditions, covering variations in fluences, energies and temperatures and followed by different high-temperature annealing steps. The resulting RE:GaN films were analysed using an electron probe micro-analyser modified to allow cathodoluminescence (CL) spectroscopy. Elemental microanalysis data obtained by wavelength dispersive X-ray analysis (WDX) is correlated with simultaneously collected room temperature CL spectra.
WDX allows the quantification of the RE elemental concentrations in GaN down to ∼ 0.03 at. % in very thin layers (∼ 100 nm deep). Furthermore, by varying the incident electron beam energy, details concerning the depth profile of RE implants can be determined. The effects of both implantation conditions and rapid thermal annealing on the depth profile and on the luminescence properties are reported. CL measurements performed on annealed samples reveal sharp visible and near IR emission lines characteristic of the RE3+ intra-4ƒ(n) atomic shell transitions.