• anatase titania;
  • nanocrystalline materials;
  • trivalent erbium ion;
  • crystal-field levels;
  • photoluminescence


A comprehensive survey of electronic structure and optical properties of rare-earth ions embedded in semiconductor nanocrystals (NCs) is of vital importance for their potential applications in areas as diverse as luminescent bioprobes, lighting, and displays. Er3+-doped anatase TiO2 NCs, synthesized via a facile sol–gel solvothermal method, exhibit intense and well-resolved intra-4f emissions of Er3+. Crystal-field (CF) spectra of Er3+ in TiO2 NCs are systematically studied by means of high-resolution emission and excitation spectra at 10–300 K. The CF analysis of Er3+ assuming a site symmetry of C2v yields a small root-mean-square deviation of 25.1 cm−1 and reveals the relatively large CF strength (549 cm−1) of Er3+, thus verifying the rationality of the C2v symmetry assignment of Er3+ in anatase TiO2 NCs. Based on a simplified thermalization model for the temperature-dependent photoluminescence (PL) dynamics from 4S3/2, the intrinsic radiative luminescence lifetimes of 4S3/2 and 2H11/2 are experimentally determined to be 3.70 and 1.73 μs, respectively. Green and red upconversion (UC) luminescence of Er3+ can be achieved upon laser excitation at 974.5 nm. The UC intensity of Er3+ in Yb/Er-codoped NCs is found to be about five times higher than that of Er-singly-doped counterparts as a result of efficient Yb3+ sensitization and energy transfer upconversion (ETU) evidenced by its distinct UC luminescence dynamics. Furthermore, the origin of defect luminescence is revealed based on the temperature-dependent PL spectra upon excitation above the TiO2 bandgap at 325 nm.