Two competing strain relaxation mechanisms, namely misfit dislocation generation and surface roughening, have been extensively studied using the GexSi
/Si (x< 0.5) system as an example. A predictive model has been developed which accurately describes the nature of misfit dislocation nucleation and growth under non-equilibrium conditions. Using optical and electron microscopy, coupled with a refined theoretical description of dislocation nucleation, it is shown that strain relieving dislocations are readily generated at low misfits with a characteristic activation energy barrier regardless of the growth technique employed (i.e. MBE, RTCVD and UHVCVD). Secondly we have studied the alternative elastic strain relaxation mechanism involving surface undulation; x-ray diffraction, electron and atomic force microscopy have been used to characterize Ge
/Si (x<0.5) structures grown by UHVCVD and MBE at relatively higher temperatures. A theoretical model has been used to model the critical thickness for surface wave generation. The conditions governing the interplay between dislocation formation and surface buckling are described in terms of a "morphological instability diagram".