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We characterize the phototransistor internal gain of metamorphic high-electron-mobility transistors (mHEMTs). When the mHEMT operates as a phototransistor, it has internal gain provided by the photovoltaic effect. To determine this internal gain, photoresponse characteristics dominated by the photoconductive effect as well as the photovoltaic effect are investigated. When the device is turned off, it acts as a photoconductor, and by calculating photoconductor gain, the primary photodetected power can be determined, which indicates the absorbed optical power. The ratio between this and the photodetected power due to the photovoltaic effect represents phototransistor internal gain. It is demonstrated that the phototransistor internal gain is function of optical modulation frequency. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.