Physical Review B - CMMP

Luminescence-center-mediated excitation as the dominant Er sensitization mechanism in Er-doped silicon-rich Si O2 films

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The structural and optical properties of erbium-doped silicon-rich silica samples containing 12 at. % of excess silicon and 0.63 at. % of erbium are studied as a function of annealing temperature in the range 600-1200°C. Indirect excitation of Er3+ ions is shown to be present for all annealing temperatures, including annealing temperatures well below 1000°C for which no silicon nanocrystals are observed. Two distinct efficient (ηtr >60%) transfer mechanisms responsible for Er3+ excitation are identified: a fast transfer process (τtr <80 ns) involving isolated luminescence centers (LCs), and a slow transfer process (τtr ∼4-100 μs) involving excitation by quantum confined excitons inside Si nanocrystals. The LC-mediated excitation is shown to be the dominant excitation mechanism for all annealing temperatures. The presence of a LC-mediated excitation process is deduced from the observation of an annealing-temperature-independent Er3+ excitation rate, a strong similarity between the LC and Er3+ excitation spectra, as well as an excellent correspondence between the observed LC-related emission intensity and the derived Er3+ excitation density for annealing temperatures in the range of 600-1000°C. The proposed interpretation provides an alternative explanation for several observations existing in the literature. © 2007 The American Physical Society.