Optical EngineeringFundamental mechanisms of laser damage of dielectric crystals by ultrashort pulse: ionization dynamics for the Keldysh model
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Laser-induced ionization is a major process that initiates and drives the initial stages of laser-induced damage (LID) of high-quality transparent solids. The ionization and its contribution to LID are characterized in terms of the time-dependent ionization rate and conduction-band electron density. Considering femtosecond pulses of various durations (from 35 to 706 fs) and variable peak irradiances (from 0.01 to 60 TW/cm2), we use a single-rate equation to simulate time variations of conduction-band electron density and rates of the photoionization and impact ionization. The photoionization rate is evaluated with the Keldysh equation. At low irradiance, the electron density and total ionization rate demonstrate power scaling characteristic of multiphoton ionization. With the increase of irradiance, there is observed a saturation of the photoionization rate due to photoionization suppression by the Keldysh-type singularity during the increase in the number of simultaneously absorbed photons by 1. A striking result is that the saturation is followed by a stepwise transition from the ionization regime which is completely dominated by the photoionization to a regime totally dominated by the impact ionization. The transition results in the increase of the electron density by a few orders of magnitude induced by a variation of peak laser irradiance by about 15% to 20%. The physical effects that are involved are discussed.