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The Japanese government and electronics industry are committed to research into semiconductors made from elements in groups III and V of the periodic table. The ultimate goal is to dominate the world market in semiconductors made from compounds such as gallium arsenide-a market that the Japanese estimate will exceed $50 billion by the turn of the century. There are two principal reasons for the Japanese conviction that nonsilicon semiconductors appear destined to be the wave of the future. First, microelectronic devices made of III-V compounds can be expected to operate much faster and with lower dissipation of energy than those made with existing silicon-based technology. Second, some optoelectronic devices, such as semiconductor lasers and light-emitting diodes, cannot be made of silicon: it does not glow brightly enough nor does it lase. The discussion covers crystal growth, lattice matching, superlattices and optoelectronics. The support given to research projects by the Japanese government is also discussed.