We present the theoretical and experimental results for the electronic and optical properties of atomically thin (1 and 2 monolayers) GaN quantum wells with AlN barriers. Strong quantum confinement increases the gap of GaN to as high as 5.44 eV and enables light emission in the deep-UV range. Luminescence occurs from the heavy and light hole bands of GaN yielding E ⊥ c polarized light emission. Strong confinement also increases the exciton binding energy up to 230 meV, preventing a thermal dissociation of excitons at room temperature. However, we did not observe excitons experimentally due to high excited free-carrier concentrations. Monolayer-thick GaN wells also exhibit a large electron-hole wave function overlap and negligible Stark shift, which is expected to enhance the radiative recombination efficiency. Our results indicate that atomically thin GaN/AlN heterostructures are promising for efficient deep-UV optoelectronic devices.

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