Abstract Heteroepitaxial MOCVD grown HgTe/CdTe superlattice structures have been examined by Rutherford backscattering spectrometry (RBS) to monitor Hg, Cd and Te concentrations as a function of depth. Individual sublayers thicknesses have been measured at the same time. Crystal quality has been assessed using ion channeling. In addition the nuclear reaction 12C(d,p) 13C was used to detect carbon impurities and proton induced X-ray emision (PIXE) analysis used to detect In and Sb introduced during growth. The results show that the as-grown HgTe/CdTe superlattice has good crystal quality and reasonable lateral uniformity. Mercury concentration is difficult to control during growth and variation between sub-layers is observed. Hg-Cd interdiffusion is observed in heat treated samples. Carbon concentration varies; in a good quality samples ⩽ 20 ppm is present.