We have investigated the epitaxy, surfaces, interfaces, and defects in AlN thin films grown on SiC by pulsed laser deposition. The stress origin, evolution, and relaxation in these films is reported. The crystalline structure and surface morphology of the epitaxially grown AlN thin films on SiC (0001) substrates have been studied using x-ray diffraction (θ–2θ, ω, and Ψ scans) and atomic force microscopy, respectively. The defect analysis has been carried out by using Rutherford backscattering spectrometry and ion channeling technique. The films were grown at various substrate temperatures ranging from room temperature to 1100 °C. X-ray diffraction measurements show highly oriented AlN films when grown at temperatures of 750- 800 °C, and single crystals above 800 °C. The films grown in the temperature range of 950 °C to 1000 °C have been found to be highly strained, whereas the films grown above 1000 °C were found to be cracked along the crystallographic axes. The results of stress as a function of growth temperature, thermal mismatch, growth mode, and buffer layer thickness will be presented, and the implications of these results for wide band gap power electronics will be discussed.