Ca1−xErxF2+x thin films, with a substitution rate, x, varying from 1 to 20%, were deposited on Si(100) substrates by sublimation of high purity solid solution powders under ultra-high-vacuum. Rutherford backscattering studies have shown that the films have the composition of the initial solid solution powders, are quite homogeneous and are epitaxially grown on the substrates.
The optical properties of these films were studied by means of cathodoluminescence and photoluminescence. At room temperature, the emissions due to the de-excitations from the 4S3/2, 4F9/2, 4I11/2 and 4I13/2 excited levels to the 4I15/2 ground state of Er 3+ (4f11) ions are easily detected (λ = 0.548, 0.66, 0.98 and 1.53 µm)
The strong 1.53 µm infrared luminescence, which presents evident potential applications for optical communications, is maximum for an erbium substitution rate included between 15 and 17%. These Er concentrations are three or four orders of magnitude greater than the optimum ones in the case of Er-doped semiconductors, which are close to 1018 cm−3.In the visible range, the luminescences are also important.They allow us to detect high energy ion or electron beams. However their maximum efficiencies were observed for a relatively low erbium concentration, close to 1%. These different behaviours are explained by the cross relaxation phenomena, which depopulate the higher levels to the benefit of the 4I13/2→ 4I15/2 transition. The energy distribution of the Stark sublevels of the 4I15/2 state, which results from crystal field splitting, was deduced from a photoluminescence study at 2K. The obtained results show that the environment of the luminescent centres does not change with the erbium concentration.
At last, it must be noted that the refractive index of the layers increases with the erbium concentration, leading to the realization of optical guides. Consequently opto-electronic components could be developed from such erbium doped heterostructures.