One of the applications of wurtzite gallium based nitride compounds will be to provide optoelectronic devices from 6.2eV (AlN) to 1.89eV (InN). This will depend on the possibility to grow wurtzite AlGaN and InGaN ternary alloys. As expected, the most difficult region is InGaN due to the large misfit between GaN and InN (= 10%), in this case, ordering, phase separation and growth instabilities have been reported. In the case of AlN and GaN, the misfit is smaller (∼ 2.5%) and one would expect more stable growth. However, it was in this system that ordering along the c axis between AlN and GaN was reported for the first time.
In this work, we have found that the growth of AlGaN may be more complicated. Not only the wurtzite lattice can be decreased to simple hexagonal by AlN/GaN ordering along the c axis, but the growth can lead to other types of stackings. Even in the low Al composition range, 10 - 15%, we have found that three processes can operate:
1. Ordering into AlN/GaN as two simple hexagonal sublattices.
2. The 3:1 ordering which has been recently reported to occur in InGaN.
3. A new type of ordering where diffraction experiments (XR and electron diffraction) detect superlattice reflection with a period close to 3 nm. The most adequate model which was found to take this into account shows that, in these growth conditions, the system has preferred to form one AlN cell in between 5 GaN cells, leading to a 5:1 ordering.