Thickness dependent thermal conductivity measurements were made on aluminum nitride (AlN) thin films grown by two methods on the (0001) surfaces of silicon carbide (SiC) and sapphire substrates with differing surface roughness. We find that the AlN layer itself makes a small contribution to the overall thermal resistance. Instead, the thermal boundary resistance (TBR) of 5.1±2.8 m2-K/GW between the AlN and substrate is equivalent to 240 nm of highly dislocated AlN, or 1450 nm of single crystal AlN. An order-of-magnitude larger TBR was measured between AlN films and SiC substrates with increased surface roughness (1.2 nm vs. 0.2 nm RMS). High resolution TEM images reveal near-interface planar defects in the AlN films grown on the rough SiC that we hypothesize are the source of increased TBR.

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