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Aluminum nitride films have been deposited on Si(111) substrates at different substrate temperatures using two techniques; pulsed laser deposition or reactive magnetron sputtering. The films deposited by either of the techniques have been characterized by x-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy to determine the crystalline quality, grain size, and epitaxial growth relation with respect to the substrate. The bonding characteristics and the residual stresses present in the films have been evaluated using Raman and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Secondary ion mass spectrometry has been performed to determine the nitrogen stoichiometry and the presence of impurities such as oxygen and silicon. The adhesion strength of the AlN films to the silicon substrate and the wear resistance have been determined by scratch test and a specially designed microscopic wear test. A comparison of the different characteristic features associated with the AlN films deposited by pulsed laser deposition or magnetron sputtering is presented with particular emphasis to electronic and tribological applications. © 1998 American Vacuum Society.