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Ion implantation causes free charge carrier reduction due to damage in the crystalline structure. Here, nitrogen-doped 4H silicon carbide (n type) epitaxial layers have been investigated using low ion doses in order to resolve the initial stage of the charge carrier reduction. It was found that the reduction of free carriers per ion-induced vacancy increases with increasing nitrogen content. Nitrogen is suggested to be deactivated through reaction with migrating point defects, and silicon vacancies or alternatively interstitials are proposed as the most likely candidates. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.