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Results of complex studies of structural, optical, and electrical characteristics of 4H–SiC n-type low-doped epitaxial layers grown by the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method are presented. Characteristics of CVD layers grown on commercial wafers with and without a thin (≪0.1 μm) buffer layer grown by liquid phase epitaxy (LPE) between the commercial wafer and CVD epitaxial layer were compared. It has been shown that the LPE filling process caused a significant improvement in the structural quality of CVD layers. Cathodoluminescence (CL) data and electrical characteristics of Schottky barriers (SB) revealed that the LPE layer also made the concentration profiles of the uncompensated donors and recombination centers for holes as well as the hole diffusion lengths more uniform over the CVD layer. According to CL and secondary ion mass-spectroscopy measurements the presence of aluminum as an impurity was detected in initial commercial wafers, as well as having LPE and CVD epitaxial layers. Forward current–voltage characteristics of SBs formed on CVD layers with and without a LPE buffer layer followed an exponential relationship with an ideality factor of 1.04–1.06 over six to seven orders of magnitude in current density. A noticeable increase of the breakdown voltage was also observed in samples with a LPE layer. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.