A silicon nitride (SiNx) membrane diffractive optical element (DOE) designed to exhibit beam-splitting and focusing behavior at visible wavelengths has been fabricated and tested. Since the fabrication process is based on silicon micromachining technology, the DOE is easily integrated with a laser diode chip and a photodiode chip on a silicon substrate to function as the hologram-laser-photodiode unit for use in the pickup head of a CD or DVD system. The SiNx film is deposited with low-pressure chemical-vapor deposition and the free-standing membrane is formed by KOH etching. The transmissive DOE showed a high diffraction efficiency (20% for a binary-phase-level element). The experimental evaluation was in good agreement with the designed and modeled predictions.