The internal quantum efficiency (ηint) of the near-band-edge (NBE) excitonic photoluminescence (PL) in ZnO epilayers was significantly improved by eliminating point defects, as well as by the use of ZnO high-temperature- annealed self-buffer layer (HITAB) on a ScAlMg O4 substrate as epitaxial templates. Negatively charged Zn vacancy (VZn) concentration was greatly reduced by high-temperature growth, and slower postgrowth cooling (annealing) under minimum oxygen pressure further reduced the gross concentration of positively and negatively charged and neutral point defects, according to the suppression of nonequilibrium defect quenching. The nonradiative PL lifetime (τnr) at room temperature was increased by decreasing the gross concentration of point defects, as well as by decreasing the concentration of VZn. Accordingly, certain point defect complexes incorporated with VZn (VZn -X complexes) are assigned to the dominant nonradiative recombination centers. As a result of the elimination of point defects, a record long τnr (3.8 ns) at 300 K was demonstrated. Because the radiative lifetime (τr) is in principle constant in bulk and epitaxial ZnO, the increase in τnr gave rise to the increase in ηint. Rich structures originating from exciton-polaritons and excited states of excitons were eventually observed in the low-temperature PL spectrum of the improved ZnO epilayer on HITAB, of which ηint of the NBE emission was 6.3% at 300 K.
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