X-ray spectroscopy studies of nonradiative energy transfer processes in luminescent lanthanide materials

by Joseph Pacold

Institution: University of Washington
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: ; Physics
Record ID: 2058444
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/27562


Luminescent materials play important roles in energy sciences, through solid state lighting and possible applications in solar energy utilization, and in biomedical research and applications, such as in immunoassays and fluorescence microscopy. The initial excitation of a luminescent material leads to a sequence of transitions between excited states, ideally ending with the emission of one or more optical-wavelength photons. It is essential to understand the microscopic physics of this excited state cascade in order to rationally design materials with high quantum efficiencies or with other fine-tuning of materials response. While optical-wavelength spectroscopies have unraveled many details of the energy transfer pathways in luminescent materials, significant questions remain open for many lanthanide-based luminescent materials. For organometallic dyes in particular, quantum yields remain limited in comparison with inorganic phosphors. This dissertation reports on a research program of synchrotron x-ray studies of the excited state electronic structure and energy-relaxation cascade in trivalent lanthanide phosphors and dyes. To this end, one of the primary results presented here is the first time-resolved x-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy studies of the transient 4f excited states in lanthanide-activated luminescent dyes and phosphors. This is a new application of time-resolved x-ray absorption spectroscopy that makes it possible to directly observe and, to some extent, quantify intramolecular nonradiative energy transfer processes. We find a transient increase in 4f spectral weight associated with an excited state confined to the 4f shell of trivalent Eu. This result implies that it is necessary to revise the current theoretical understanding of 4f excitation in trivalent lanthanide activators: either transient 4f-5d mixing effects are much stronger than previously considered, or else the lanthanide 4f excited state has an unexpectedly large contribution having a strong charge-transfer character. A second primary result comes from an an x-ray excited optical luminescence (XEOL) study that demonstrates, for the first time, that the high flux of modern synchrotron light sources can induce high fractional populations of excited states in trivalent lanthanide phosphors. In this work we have identified the leading-order nonlinear-response mechanism by drawing on strong similarities between XEOL and cathodoluminescence. These results establish the groundwork for studies that would allow deeper inquiry into energy-transfer mechanisms through time-resolved x-ray pump/optical-probe spectroscopies, through time-resolved x-ray emission spectroscopy, or through quantifying of higher-order nonlinear effects at further-enhanced fractional excitation levels. The above scientific results are augmented by a supporting effort in instrumental methodology. This includes the development of high-efficiency x-ray emission spectrometers and their use in collaborations to study pressure-induced changes in f-electron physics and to…