SiOx nanoclusters (7 nm to 17 nm) are produced by evaporation of SiO (or Si) in Ar (+O2) atmospheres. Room temperature photoluminescence (PL) measurements in vacuum reveal a broad band centered at 1.65 eV. Upon exposure to gas this PL band is extinguished in a matter of seconds, and another band centered at 2.12 eV appears. This effect occurs regardless of the gas used (He, Ar, N2, O2, H2O vapor or air) and is entirely reversible upon evacuation.
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM), Raman, infrared transmission, and X-ray photoluminescence spectroscopy (XPS) measurements are used to characterize the clusters. They are noncrystalline, and the oxidation state is a suboxide rather than SiO2 The PL spectra are independent of cluster size. The PL does not occur without sufficient oxidation and does not require the presence of bonded hydrogen. We are led to speculate that the radiative recombination occurs in electron states derived from a suboxide.