Silicon-rich silica samples doped with erbium were grown by PECVD and characterized by photoluminescence, time-resolved photoluminescence and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. We observe that upon increased silicon content, the absorption spectrum reveals the formation of a SiN bond. This indicates the possible incorporation of nitrogen from the precursor NO gas into the Si nanoclusters. The highest erbium photoluminescence is obtained for the sample with the highest silicon content and its decay characteristics are nearly single exponential with a time constant of 5 ms. In addition to erbium emission, a visible luminescence peak at about 550 nm is observed. This shows multi-exponential decay kinetics with decay times of the order of 10 ns. We propose that this emission is due to small Si nanoclusters covered by a SiN shell. From the measurements, we study a mechanism to explain the erbium excitation in this material
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