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We report on nonlinear behavior of the intensities and the energies of photoluminescence lines in mixed type I–type II quantum well heterostructures. The structures under study consist of a single enlarged quantum well (SQW), embedded in type II short period superlattices (SPS) on both sides. The nonlinearities are interpreted considering a coupling between the electron levels in the SPS and the SQW, and a very efficient transfer of electrons from the whole structure to the well. The electron density in the SQW as well as the internal electric fields can be optically controlled to high values depending on input power intensities. The nonlinear effects, and the extension of light emission to higher energies in such structures, compared to traditional type I systems, may be of interest in potential applications. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.