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Luminescence detection of phase transitions, local environment and nanoparticle inclusions

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Luminescence data offer delicate probes of changes in structure and local environment in insulating materials. Therefore they have long been employed in studies of imperfections and characterisation of lattice distortions. Luminescence techniques are inherently very sensitive so respond to small concentrations of intrinsic defects and impurities, and intentionally added probe ions, such as rare earth or chromium ions, are particularly effective at displaying responsive changes linked to modified structural environments. Parameters of interest are variations in luminescence efficiency, the details of the emission spectra, polarisation, temperature dependence and changes in excited state lifetimes. These are suitable properties to monitor variations in both short and long range lattice structure, composition, pressure and temperature. For modern photonic materials such probes are powerful tools to follow changes introduced by processing to make waveguides, surface layers and new materials. The use of different excitation conditions for the luminescence can resolve differences between near surface and bulk features. A less common approach is to use luminescence as a route to detect phase transitions. This is particularly valuable for rapid survey studies of new materials which are of relevance to modern optics. One of the more surprising results is the observation that phase changes of very small inclusions, such as phase precipitates or impurity nanoparticles, can totally dominate the luminescence response of the bulk material. Specific examples include the frequent observation of trapped nanoparticles of water, N2, O2 and CO2. Further, the excitation techniques, and ion implantation or surface stresses can all induce surface relaxations which, in materials such as SrTiO3 or ZnO, result in phase changes propagating throughout the entire crystal. This review rapidly recalls the methods used in the older studies of imperfections and then uses a range of examples to show how luminescence studies can be effective in detecting and confirming the presence of phase transitions. Interestingly the examples include not only transparent insulating materials but also fullerenes and superconductors.
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Keywords: imperfections; luminescence; phase transitions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Science and Technology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK 2: Science and Technology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK,Physics Department, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China 3: Science and Technology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK,School of Materials Science and Technology, China University of Geosciences, Beijing, China

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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