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Ge thin films are grown on Si(001) substrates by molecular-beam epitaxy at 370 °C. The low-temperature epitaxial growth is compatible with the back-end thermal budget of current generation complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor technology, which is restricted to less than 450 °C. Reflection high-energy electron diffraction shows that single-crystal Ge thin films with smooth surfaces could be achieved below 450 °C. Double-axis x-ray θ/2θ scans also show that the epitaxial Ge films are almost fully strain-relaxed. As expected, cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy shows a network of dislocations at the interface. Hydrogen and oxide desorption techniques are proved to be necessary for improving the quality of the Ge films, which is reflected in improved minority carrier diffusion lengths and exceptionally low leakage currents. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.