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We report on the strain reduction in AlGaN layers grown on porous GaN (P-GaN) by metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD). The P-GaN was obtained by ultraviolet radiation-enhanced electroless wet chemical etching of thick hydride vapor phase epitaxial grown GaN (HVPE-GaN) templates over (001) sapphire substrates. By optimizing the growth conditions, lateral growth of AlGaN was enhanced resulting in air-bridge formation between the P-GaN and the AlGaN layers. X-ray diffraction studies showed significant strain relaxation in AlGaN layers primarily due to the strain sharing between P-GaN and the AlGaN layers. This allowed us to grow crack-free good optical quality layers with thickness exceeding the critical limits for AlGaN deposition on the conventional MOCVD GaN or HVPE-GaN. The obtained results demonstrate the potential of this approach for the development of efficient ultraviolet light emitters. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.