EPR and optical absorption measurements have been performed on nearly stoichiometric lithium niobate single crystals with iron in traces and in 0.1% molar nominal amount. Thermal treatments in reducing atmosphere allowed to obtain samples with different Fe2+/Fe3+ ratios. The Fe2+/Fe3+ dynamic has been observed by irradiating the samples with UV and visible light in the temperature range 4-300 K: the photochromic effect resulted to be more evident in the strongly reduced crystals. A simple model to explain the photochromic behavior in nearly stoichiometric LiNbO3:Fe is proposed.
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