Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Materials Science and Engineering


John Ballato

Committee Member

Philip Brown

Committee Member

O. Thompson Mefford

Committee Member

Eric Skaar


Yttrium-based inorganic optical materials generally are of practical interest for three applications: solid state lighting/displays, lasers, and scintillators. Solid-state lighting is particularly desirable commercially for its efficiency and lifetime compared to traditional incandescent alternatives. This type of lighting technology is of increasing interest as incandescent light bulbs are being gradually phased-out due to government regulations on maximum wattage of these devices. Additionally, shortcomings in the current state of the art have driven the need for a more thermally stable material for use in this area. In this dissertation, we develop and characterize a novel composite material consisting of optically active yttrium-based nanoparticles doped into silica sol-gels. For lighting and display applications, low-cost, low-temperature synthesis methods for materials that meet or exceed the quality of the materials currently on the market are highly desirable. During the course of this work, we discuss the characterization of yttrium-based nanoparticles with respect to their incorporation in a sol-gel matrix composite. We then prepared these composite materials using a variety of methods and assess their quality according to a set of selection criteria and for lighting/display applications. Novel light-emitting composites consisting of Ce:YAG or Eu:Y2O3 (yttria) nanoparticles in an inorganic medium were successfully developed and characterized. The optical properties of the nanoparticles were maintained when incorporated into the sol-gel medium and were shown to be comparable with the current state of the art. Comparison was made between the nanoparticle emission and the composite emission and, in the case of the Ce:YAG, the CIE coordinates, showing no change between the emission intensities or peak locations. We successfully demonstrated the conversion of fluoride-based particles into Y2O3 during sol-gel processing and demonstrated that no reaction took place between the nanoparticles and the sol-gel medium. Stability of nanoparticles in suspension was overcome through the control of pH during sol-gel synthesis. Through both base- and/or acid-catalysis, we produced optically active nanoparticle doped sol-gel composites containing YAG and Yttria. Our results indicated no detrimental effect on the nanoparticles upon incorporation into the sol-gel matrix; this was demonstrated through XRD, where no silicate phases were observed, through EDX, where we saw no diffusion of yttrium into the sol-gel and no silicon diffusing into the nanoparticles, and through photoluminescence, where emissions were consistent with that of the as-made nanoparticles. These results led us to theorize that the nanoparticles, rather than being bonded to the matrix, are seated in the void space that is prevalent in sol-gel systems. Additionally, these materials are stable at much higher temperatures than current resin-based systems.