Silicon nanocrystals were formed in SiO2 using Si ion implantation followed by thermal annealing. The nanocrystal-doped SiO2 layer was implanted with Er to a peak concentration of 1.8 at. %. Upon 458 nm excitation the sample shows a broad nanocrystal-related luminescence spectrum centered around 750 nm and two sharp Er luminescence lines at 982 and 1536 nm. By measuring the excitation spectra of these features as well as the temperature-dependent intensities and luminescence dynamics we conclude that (a) the Er is excited by excitons recombining within Si nanocrystals through a strong coupling mechanism, (b) the Er excitation process at room temperature occurs at a submicrosecond time scale, (c) excitons excite Er with an efficiency >55%, and (d) each nanocrystal can have at most ∼1 excited Er ion in its vicinity. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.