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Volume 106, Issue 1, 01 July 2009
Wide-band-gap GaN and Ga-rich InGaN alloys, with energy gaps covering the blue and near-ultraviolet parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, are one group of the dominant materials for solid state lighting and lasing technologies and consequently, have been studied very well. Much less effort has been devoted to InN and In-rich InGaN alloys. A major breakthrough in 2002, stemming from much improved quality of InN films grown using molecular beam epitaxy, resulted in the bandgap of InN being revised from 1.9 eV to a much narrower value of 0.64 eV. This finding triggered a worldwide research thrust into the area of narrow-band-gap group-III nitrides. The low value of the InN bandgap provides a basis for a consistent description of the electronic structure of InGaN and InAlN alloys with all compositions. It extends the fundamental bandgap of the group III-nitride alloy system over a wider spectral region, ranging from the near infrared at (0.64 eV for InN) to the ultraviolet at (3.4 eV for GaN) or (6.2 eV for AlN). The continuous range of bandgap energies now spans the near infrared, raising the possibility of new applications for group-III nitrides. In this article we present a detailed review of the physical properties of InN and related group III-nitride semiconductors. The electronic structure, carrier dynamics, optical transitions, defect physics, doping disparity, surface effects, and phonon structure will be discussed in the context of the InN bandgap re-evaluation. We will then describe the progress, perspectives, and challenges in the developments of new electronic and optoelectronic devices based on InGaN alloys. Advances in characterization and understanding of InN and InGaN nanostructures will also be reviewed in comparison to their thin film counterparts.