Optical properties of directly excited erbium (Er(3+)) ions have been studied in silicon rich silicon oxide materials codoped with Er(3+). The spectral dependence of the direct excitation cross section (sigma(dir)) of the Er(3+) atomic (4)/(15/2) -> (4)/(11/2) transition (around 0.98 mu m) has been measured by time resolved mu-photoluminescence measurements. We have determined that sigma(dir) is 9.0 +/- 1.5 x 10(-21) cm(2) at 983 nm, at least twice larger than the value determined on a stoichiometric SiO(2) matrix. This result, in combination with a measurement of the population of excited Er(3+) as a function of the pumping flux, has allowed quantifying accurately the amount of optically active Er(3+). This concentration is, in the best of the cases, 26% of the total Er population measured by secondary ion mass spectrometry, which means that only this percentage could provide optical gain in an eventual optical amplifier based oil this material.
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