Cracking of thick GaN films grown on sapphire is reexamined on the basis of a combination of microstructural observations of cracking and established mechanics of fracture of films. It is argued that cracking is motivated by tensile growth stresses once a critical thickness is reached. Subsequent growth on the cracked films occurs, perpetuating the cracked structure until the crack surfaces approach one another and touch. Continued film growth buries the crack. Once the crack faces touch, there are conditions under which it is energetically favorable for the cracks to close and heal. Crack healing can be kinetically limited. Whether the crack healing is complete within the growth time depends on several factors including, it is suggested, whether impurities have adsorbed to the surface during growth. Conditions under which cracks that have extended into the sapphire substrate during film growth can act as critical flaws for fracture of the substrate on cooling are also presented.

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