In this paper we report sapphire nitridation and GaN film growth by using ionized nitrogen clusters as a nitrogen source. The clusters, typically 2000–3000 molecules/charge, are generated by a prototype GCIB source. The clusters are accelerated to 10–25 kV and disintegrate upon impact with the substrate surface where they react with Ga atoms to form GaN. The efficiency of this novel nitrogen source was tested by studying the nitridation of (0001) sapphire substrates at relatively low temperatures of 200 - 400°C. The effect of exposure of the substrate to the nitrogen cluster-ion beam was examined by XPS, RHEED and AFM. It was found that the amount of retained surface nitrogen increases nonlinearly with increasing beam energy. There exists a threshold energy, ∼ 20 kV, above which nitrogen retention is significantly enhanced.
GaN films were grown with such nitrogen clusters heteroepitaxially on sapphire/AlN-buffer (MBE grown) and homoepitaxially on thick GaN on sapphire (HVPE grown).TEM cross-section images indicate that the heteroepitaxial GaN films had defect density similar to that of MBE and MOCVD grown films. The homoepitaxially-grown GaN films were found to replicate the GaN templates and show strong cathodoluminescence (CL) emission at 363 nm with FWHM of 9 nm. Furthermore, the spectra show no evidence of yellow band emission.