Determining GaN nanowire polarity and its influence on light emission in the scanning electron microscope

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The crystal polarity of non-centrosymmetric wurtzite GaN nanowires is determined non-destructively in the scanning electron microscope using electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD). The impact of the nanowire polarity on light emission is then investigated using cathodoluminescence (CL) spectroscopy. EBSD can determine polarity of non-centrosymmetric crystals by interrogating differences in the intensity distribution of bands of the EBSD pattern associated with semi-polar planes. Experimental EBSD patterns from an array of GaN nanowires are compared with theoretical patterns produced using dynamical electron simulations to reveal whether they are Ga or N-polar or, as in several cases, of mixed polarity. CL spectroscopy demonstrates the effect of the polarity on light emission, with spectra obtained from nanowires of known polarity revealing a small but measureable shift (≈28 meV) in the band edge emission energy between those with Ga and N polarity. We attributed this energy shift to a difference in impurity incorporation in nanowires of different crystal polarity. This approach can be employed to non-destructively identify polarity in a wide range of non-centrosymmetric nanoscale material systems and provide direct comparison with their luminescence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3863-3870
Number of pages8
JournalNano Letters
Issue number6
Early online date30 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2019


  • nanowires
  • polarity
  • electron diffraction
  • SEM
  • GaN
  • cathodoluminescence
  • electron backscatter diffraction
  • EBSD
  • spectroscopy


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