Epitaxial domain formation and textured growth in AlN thin films deposited on Si(001) substrates by reactive magnetron sputtering was studied by transmission electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction. The films have a wurtzite type structure with a crystallographic orientation relationship to the silicon substrate of AlN(0001)Si(001). The AlN film is observed to nucleate randomly on the Si surface and grows three dimensionally, forming columnar domains. The in-plane orientation reveals four domains with their a axes rotated by 15° with respect to each other: AlN112¯0Si[110], AlN011¯0Si[110], AlN112¯0Si[100], and AlN011¯0Si[100] An explanation of the growth mode based on the large lattice mismatch and the topology of the substrate surface is proposed.

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