Rib-loaded waveguides containing Er(3+) coupled to Si-nc have been produced by magnetron sputtering and Successive thermal annealing to investigate optical gain at 1535 nm. It has been shown that all Er ions are optically active, whereas the fraction that can be excited at high pump rates under non-resonant excitation is strongly limited by confined carrier absorption (CA), up-conversion processes, and mainly by the lack of coupling to the Si-nc. Er(3+) absorption cross-section is found comparable to that of Er(3+) in SiO(2), but a dependence with the effective refractive index has been found. Although the presence of Si-nc strongly improves the efficiency of Er(3+) excitation, it introduces additional optical loss mechanisms, such as CA. These Si-nc losses affect the possibility of obtaining net optical gain. In the present study, they have been minimized by lowering the annealing time of the Er-doped Si-rich oxide. In pump-probe measurements it is shown that signal enhancement of the transmitted signal can be achieved at low pumping rate when the detrimental role of confined CA is attenuated by reducing the annealing time. A maximum signal enhancement of about 1.30 at 1535 nm was observed.
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