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Microstructure of α‐GaN films grown by organometallic vapor phase epitaxy on sapphire substrates using low temperature AlN (or GaN) buffer layers has been studied by transmission electron microscopy. The defects which penetrate the GaN films are predominantly perfect edge dislocations with Burgers vectors of the 1/3〈112¯0〉 type, lying along the  growth direction. The main sources of threading dislocations are the low angle grain boundaries, formed during coalescence of islands at the initial stages of GaN growth. The grain sizes range from 50 to 500 nm, with in‐plane misorientations of less than 3°. The nature of these threading dislocations suggests that the defect density would not likely decrease appreciably at increasing film thickness, and the suppression of these dislocations could be more difficult. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.