The effect of nanometer-scale spatial separation between Er3+ and Tm3+ ions in Er and Tm codoped silicon-rich silicon oxide (SRSO) films is investigated. Er and Tm codoped SRSO films, which consist of nanocluster Si (nc-Si) embedded inside SiO2 matrix, were fabricated with electron cyclotron resonance-plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition of SiH4 and O-2 with concurrent sputtering of Er and Tm metal targets. Spatial separation between Er3+ and Tm3+ ions was achieved by depositing alternating layers of Er- and Tm-doped layers of varying thickness while keeping the total film thickness the same. The films display broadband infrared photoluminescence (PL) from 1.5 to 2.0 mum under a single source excitation due to simultaneous excitation of Er3+ and Tm3+ ions by nc-Si. Increasing the layer thickness from 0 to 72 nm increases the Er3+ PL intensity nearly 50-fold while the Tm3+ PL intensity is unaffected. The data are well-explained by a model assuming a dipole-dipole interaction between excited Er3+ and Tm3+ ions, and suggest that by nanoscale engineering, efficient, ultrabroadband infrared luminescence can be obtained in an optically homogeneous material using a single light source. (C) 2004 American Institute of Physics.