VCSELs have gained importance in recent years for applications where beam quality, prospects for high-density arrays, and inherent compatibility with planar processing are particularly important. In the case of resonant-cavity LEDs (RCLEDs), the quasi-beam-like directionality in the spontaneous emission and possible enhancements to the radiative recombination rates likewise have spurred active research. VCSEL technologies that rely on III–V semiconductor heterostructures have now risen to a dominant position within the semiconductor laser industry, supplying high-performance components that play an increasingly vital role in optical communications technology. Both GaAs- and phosphide-based QW VCSELs are making significant headway in penetrating into the 1.3–1.5µm wavelength region, following spectacular device successes in the roughly 650–900 nm range in the 1990s.
To date, the shortest wavelength VCSELs that have been implemented have reached the short end of the red (∼630 nm). There are a number of reasons, both fundamental and practical, that make the development of blue and green VCSELs and RCLEDs in the wide-gap semiconductors challenging. In terms of the technological approaches and prospects for short-wavelength VCSELs and RCLEDs, this chapter is speculative in tone, given the early stages of research. At this writing, it is unclear what combination of epitaxial growth and device design/processing schemes might result in a technologically viable VCSEL, for instance. On the other hand, there are ample fundamental physical reasons that suggest that microcavity emitters based on wide-gap semiconductors, and the nitrides in particular, have special properties that offer unique opportunities both in terms of the basic physics and device performance.