We have made AlGaN/GaN high electron mobility transistors with a Si3N4 passivation layer that was deposited in situ in our metal-organic chemical-vapor deposition reactor in the same growth sequence as the rest of the layer stack. The Si3N4 is shown to be of high quality and stoichiometric in composition. It reduces the relaxation, cracking, and surface roughness of the AlGaN layer. It also neutralizes the charges at the top AlGaN interface, which leads to a higher two-dimensional electron-gas density. Moreover, it protects the surface during processing and improves the Ohmic source and drain contacts. This leads to devices with greatly improved characteristics. (c) 2005 American Institute of Physics.