A semiconductor wafer from which devices, such as transistors, integrated circuits or the like, are to be formed is gettered. This is done by directing a high energy beam, such as a laser beam, on the surface of the wafer opposite to the surface on which the devices are to be formed. The beam is absorbed by such surface and produces lattice damage and strain in the region of such surface. The wafer is then heated at a temperature and for a time sufficient to produce a dislocation array adjacent to the region of damage. This relieves the strain and attracts mobile defects in the wafer toward the array and away from the surface of the wafer on which the devices are to be formed.
The beam may also be directed on the surface of the wafer where the semiconductor devices are to be formed so long as the beam avoids those portions of such surface where the devices are to be formed.