Erbium doped materials are of great interest in thin film integrated optoelectronic technology, due to their Er3+intra-4f emission at 1.54 μm, a standard telecommunication wavelength. Er-doped dielectric thin films can be used to fabricate planar optical amplifiers or lasers that can be integrated with other devices on the same chip. Semiconductors, such as silicon, can also be doped with erbium. In this case the Er may be excited through optically or electrically generated charge carriers. Er-doped Si light-emitting diodes may find applications in Si-based optoelectronic circuits. In this article, the synthesis, characterization, and application of several different Er-doped thin film photonic materials is described. It focuses on oxide glasses (pure SiO2, phosphosilicate, borosilicate, and soda-lime glasses), ceramic thin films (Al2O3,Y2O3, LiNbO3), and amorphous and crystalline silicon, all doped with Er by ion implantation. MeV ion implantation is a technique that is ideally suited to dope these materials with Er as the ion range corresponds to the typical micron dimensions of these optical materials. The role of implantation defects, the effect of annealing, concentration dependent effects, and optical activation are discussed and compared for the various materials. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.