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GaN/AlN multiple-quantum-well structures were grown by molecular beam epitaxy. Abrupt interfaces and good periodicity were confirmed. Absorption measurements indicated that intersubband absorptions occurred at wavelengths of 1.3–2.2 μm. Spectral fits by Lorentzians suggested that the well thicknesses fluctuated by two monolayers. The linewidths of the individual fits were as narrow as 80–120 meV. The characteristics of the absorption saturation were investigated at a wavelength of 1.46 μm. A relaxation time of 400 fs and saturation energy density of 0.5 pJ/μm2 were obtained. These results are promising for realizing ultrafast optical switches with energy consumption of the picojoule order. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.