The comparison of the performances of SiO2 and SiOC layers as host matrices for optically active Eu ions is presented. A SiO2 matrix allows to observe light emission from both Eu2+ and Eu3+ ions, owing to a proper tuning of the thermal annealing process used for the optical activation of the rare earth. However, the photoluminescence efficiency of both ions remains relatively low and quite far from the requirements for technological applications, mainly due to the extensive formation of Eu-containing precipitates. A detailed study by transmission electron microscopy allowed us to analyze and elucidate the clustering process and to find suitable strategies for minimizing it. We found that the substitution of SiO2 matrix with a SiOC film allows to obtain a very bright light emission centered at about 440 nm from Eu2+ ions. In fact, SiOC is able to efficiently promote the Eu3+ → Eu2+ reduction; furthermore, Eu ions are characterized by an enhanced mobility and solubility in this matrix, and as a consequence, Eu precipitation is strongly reduced. Since SiOC is a material fully compatible with standard Si technology, Eu-doped SiOC layers can be considered a highly interesting candidate for photonic applications.

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