The current interest in the wide bandgap II-VI semiconductor compounds can be traced back to the initial developments in semiconductor optoelectronic device physics that occurred in the early 1960s. The II-VI semiconductors were the object of intense research in both industrial and university laboratories for many years. The motivation for their exploration was the expectation that, possessing direct bandgaps from infrared to ultraviolet, the wide bandgap II-VI compound semiconductors could be the basis for a variety of efficient light-emitting devices spanning the entire range of the visible spectrum.
During the past thirty years or so, development of the narrower gap III-V compound semiconductors, such as gallium arsenide and related III-V alloys, has progressed quite rapidly. A striking example of the current maturity reached by the III-V semiconductor materials is the infrared semiconductor laser that provides the optical source for fiber communication links and compact-disk players. Despite the fact that the direct bandgap II-VI semiconductors offered the most promise for realizing diode lasers and efficient light-emitting-diode (LED) displays over the green and blue portions of the visible spectrum, major obstacles soon emerged with these materials, broadly defined in terms of the structural and electronic quality of the material. As a result of these persistent problems, by the late 1970s the II-VI semiconductors were largely relegated to academic research among a small community of workers, primarily in university research laboratories.