The structural properties and the room temperature luminescence of Er2O3 thin films deposited by magnetron sputtering have been studied. In spite of the well-known high reactivity of rare earth oxides towards silicon, films characterized by good morphological properties have been obtained by using a SiO2 interlayer between the film and the silicon substrate. The evolution of the properties of the Er2O3 films due to thermal annealing processes in oxygen ambient performed at temperatures in the range of 8001200°C has been investigated in detail. The existence of well defined annealing conditions (rapid treatments at a temperature of 1100°C or higher) allowing to avoid the occurrence of extensive chemical reactions with the oxidized substrate has been demonstrated; under these conditions, the thermal process has a beneficial effect on both structural and optical properties of the film, and an increase of the photoluminescence (PL) intensity by about a factor of 40 with respect to the as-deposited material has been observed. The enhanced efficiency of the photon emission process has been correlated with the longer lifetime of the PL signal. Finally, the conditions leading to a reaction of Er2O3 with the substrate have been also identified, and evidences about the formation of silicate-like phases have been collected.

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