We report defect-related photoluminescence (PL) and its vacuum ultraviolet photoluminescence excitation (PLE) spectra of aluminum nitride layers with various layer thicknesses and dislocation densities grown on two different substrates: sapphire and silicon. The defect-related transitions have been distinguished and examined in the emission and excitation spectra investigated under synchrotron radiation. The broad PL bands of two defect levels in the AlN were detected at around 3 eV and 4 eV. In the PLE spectra of these bands, a sharp excitonic peak originating most probably from the A-exciton of AlN was clearly visible. Taking into account the exciton binding energy, the measurements allow determination of the bandgaps of the investigated AlN samples and their temperature dependencies. Next, they are compared with the literature data obtained by other experimental techniques for bulk AlN crystals and layers grown on different substrates. The obtained results revealed that the AlN bandgap depends on the substrate. The theoretical analysis using density functional theory calculations showed that the effect is induced by the tetragonal strain related to the lattice mismatch between the substrate and the AlN layer, which has a strong influence on the spectral positions of the intrinsic excitons, and consequently on the bandgap of AlN layers.
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