Little information is available about the thermal oxidation of GaN. Since GaN is of interest for high temperature electronics, knowledge of the stability of GaN in potentially oxidizing environments would be useful. Furthermore, evaluation of the characteristics of the thermal oxide will provide information needed for assessing the potential of this oxide in processing or device applications.
In this study, thick GaN epilayers and GaN powders were exposed to dry air at 450°C, 750°C, 900°C, 925°C, 950°C, and 1000°C for periods of 1 to 25 hours. Following oxidation, the epilayers were analyzed by x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and glancing incidence x-ray diffraction, and the powders were analyzed by conventional x-ray diffraction. For both the GaN films and powders, significant oxidation was observed at 900°C, and the oxide was identified as monoclinic β-Ga2O3. Oxidation in dry air resulted in roughening of the oxide/GaN interface and oxide surface. In the temperature range 900°C to 1000°C, linear kinetics were observed for times up to 10 hours indicating an interfacial reaction mechanism as the rate limiting step for oxidation. An apparent activation energy of ∼72 kcal/mole was determined for this process.