Y2O3:Yb3+ 5 at% ceramics have been synthesized by the reactive sintering method using different commercial yttria powders (Alfa-Micro, Alfa-Nano, and ITO-V) as raw materials. It has been shown that all Y2O3 starting powders consist from agglomerates up to 5-7 μm in size which are formed from 25-60 nm primary particles. High-energy ball milling allows to significantly decreasing the median particle size D50 below 500 nm regardless of the commercial powders used. Sintering experiments indicate that powder mixtures fabricated from Alfa-Nano yttria powders have the highest sintering activity, while (Y0.86La0.09Yb0.05)2O3 ceramics sintered at 1750 ℃ for 10 h are characterized by the highest transmittance of about 45%. Y2O3:Yb3+ ceramics have been obtained by the reactive sintering at 1750-1825 ℃ using Alfa-Nano Y2O3 powders and La2O3+ZrO2 as a complex sintering aid. The effects of the sintering temperature on densification processes, microstructure, and optical properties of Y2O3:Yb3+ 5 at% ceramics have been studied. It has been shown that Zr4+ ions decrease the grain growth of Y2O3:Yb3+ ceramics for sintering temperatures 1750-1775 ℃. Further increasing the sintering temperature was accompanied by a sharp increase of the average grain size of ceramics referred to changes of structure and chemical composition of grain boundaries, as well as their mobility. It has been determined that the optimal sintering temperature to produce high-dense yttria ceramics with transmittance of 79%-83% and average grain size of 8 μm is 1800 ℃. Finally, laser emission at ~1030.7 nm with a slope efficiency of 10% was obtained with the most transparent Y2O3:Yb3+ 5 аt% ceramics sintered.
This work was supported by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine by the budget programs "Support for the development of priority areas of scientific research" (KPKVK 6541230). The authors are grateful to Dr. Vyacheslav Baumer from the "SSI Institute for Single Crystals" of NAS of Ukraine, Kharkiv, Ukraine, Dr. Andrei Kuncser from the National Institute of Materials Physics, Bucharest, Romania, and to Dr. Nicolaie Pavel and Dr. Gabriela Croitoru from the National Institute for Laser, Plasma and Radiation Physics, Magurele, Romania, for their help in the characterization of the ceramic samples and the fruitful discussions of the experimental results.
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