Availability of optoelectronic components operating in the U V-Visible part of the spectrum opens several exciting and important system applications. Solid state ultraviolet and blue-green lasers can increase the optical data storage density of CDROM/WORM and magneto-optical disks by a factor of four. They are also ideally suited for environmental pollutant identification and monitoring. On the other hand, solid state ultraviolet detectors that do not respond to visible or IR radiation are highly desirable for various commercial systems. These include medical imaging, industrial boiler systems, fire/flame safeguard systems around oil and gas installations and several military applications. A key requirement for these ultraviolet laser and sensor devices is the availability of a semiconductor material system with high quality controlled doping and fabrication technology.
AlxGa1−xN and InxGa1−xN for which the direct bandgap can be tailored from the visible to the deep UV is such a material system. Ours and several other research groups (nationally and internationally) have been developing AlxGa1−xN materials and processing technologies over the past several years. Recently, by employing innovative approaches, significant advances have been made in heteroepitaxy of AlxGa1−xN on sapphire substrates. Also, controlled n and p-type doping has been achieved. Several high performance devices that form the basis of exciting future research have been demonstrated. These include high responsivity visible blind ultraviolet sensors, basic transistor structures and high power blue light emitting diodes. These pave the way for future research leading to exciting products such as blue-green lasers and UV-imaging arrays. The demonstrated transistor structures are foundation for building AlxGa1−xN -GaN based high power, high frequency and high temperature electronic components. In this paper, we will summarize some of our recent work and reflect on the potential and the issues in AlxGa1−xN-InxGa1−xN based device development.