Devitrification Behavior of Sol-Gel Derived ZrO2-SiO2 Rare-Earth Doped Glasses: Correlation between Structural and Optical Properties
Optical and structural properties of glasses and glass-ceramics (GC) obtained by different heat-treatment of Tb and Tb-Yb doped sol-gel derived 30ZrO2-70SiO2 materials were investigated. A glass was formed after treatment at 700 °C whereas devitrification of the media after the treatment at 1000 and 1100 °C, led to the formation of GC containing up to three different crystalline phases, namely, tetragonal ZrO2, Yb-disilicate and cristobalite. The modification of the optical properties through the heat treatment was caused by redistribution of the rare earth elements (REE) among the different phases: both Tb and Yb entered the t-ZrO2 lattice, Yb can also be present in the form of a Yb2Si2O7 crystal. Devitrification led to an increase in Tb→Yb energy transfer efficiency as compared to the glass, though it was higher in the samples heat-treated at 1000 °C than in those treated at 1100 °C. The most intensive Yb3+ luminescence, induced by the energy transfer from the Tb3+ ion, was observed at the interface between t-ZrO2 and the glassy phases, due to the high concentration of REE in this area caused by the inability of ZrO2 to accept larger amounts of the REE. The mechanisms of the Tb→Yb energy transfer vary between different phases of the GC. The results obtained in this study are important for the development of spectral down-converters for potential solar energy applications based on Tb-Yb co-doped glass-ceramics.