Phase separation of InxGa1-xN alloys into Ga-rich and In-rich regions was observed by a number of research groups for samples grown with high indium content, x. Due to the radiation sensitivity of InGaN to beam damage by fast electrons, high-resolution imaging in transmission electron microscopy (TEM) or core-loss electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS) may lead to erroneous results. Low-loss EELS can yield spectra of the plasmon loss regions at much lower electron fluxes. Unfortunately, due to their delayed edge onset, the low energetic core losses of Ga and In partially overlap with the plasmon peaks, all of which shift with indium content.
Here we demonstrate a method to quantify phase separation in InGaN thin films from the low-loss region in EELS by simultaneously fitting both plasmon and core losses over the energy range of 13-30eV. Phase separation is shown to lead to a broadening of the plasmon peak and the overlapping core losses, resulting in an unreliable determination of the indium concentration from analyzing the plasmon peak position alone if phase separation is present. For x=0.3 and x=0.59, the relative contributions of the binary compounds are negligibly small and indicate random alloys. For xnom.=0.62 we observed strong broadening, indicating phase separation.