There is great technological interest in elucidating the effect of particle size on the luminescence efficiency of doped rare earth oxides. This study demonstrates unambiguously that there is a size effect and that it is not dependent on the calcination temperature. The Y₂O₃:Eu and Gd₂O₃:Eu particles used in this study were synthesized using wet chemistry to produce particles ranging in size between 7 nm and 326 nm and a commercially available phosphor. These particles were characterized using three excitation methods: UV light at 250 nm wavelength, electron beam at 10 kV, and X-rays generated at 100 kV. Regardless of the excitation source, it was found that with increasing particle diameter there is an increase in emitted light. Furthermore, dense particles emit more light than porous particles. These results can be explained by considering the larger surface area to volume ratio of the smallest particles and increased internal surface area of the pores found in the large particles. For the small particles, the additional surface area hosts adsorbates that lead to non-radiative recombination, and in the porous particles, the pore walls can quench fluorescence. This trend is valid across calcination temperatures and is evident when comparing particles from the same calcination temperature.
Keywords: Gd2O3:Eu; Y2O3:Eu; cathodoluminescence; fluorescence; luminescence; particle size effect; scintillation.