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Proceedings Paper

Materials for high-power laser optics: the thermal lensing issue
Author(s): Claude A. Klein
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Paper Abstract

High-power/high-energy laser (HEL) systems include an optical train consisting of mirrors and windows, which must be capable of transporting and directing the beam without seriously degrading the nominal performance. Since catastrophic failure modes are not a major threat at beam-power levels of current interest, the system's performance as measured in terms of achievable target irradiances may degrade as a result of thermal lensing, that is, the wavefront distortion caused by thermally induced phase aberrations. The purpose of this paper is to review and update analytical investigations that address the problem of evaluating die nature of laser-driven mirror/window distortions; in this context, it is shown how to obtain simple figures of merit (FoM) for rating the thermal lensing performance of mirror-substrate materials as well as window-material candidates. The performance of cooled HEL mirrors reflects their ability to minimize irradiance-mapping wavefront distortions, which leads to defining a thermal distortion coefficient % that controls the out-of-plane growth of the faceplate. It is then straightforward to derive equations for characterizing the RMSsed surface deformation and to assess the merit of mirror-faceplate materials in a pulsed or a CW environment. Since state-of-the-art heat exchangers exhibit relatively modest Biot numbers, the thermal conduction is not a critical parameter but the modulus of elasticity must be properly factored into the FoM for CW operation. Window-induced wavefront deformations require special attention because they involve not only position-dependent variations of the window thickness but also position- and polarization-dependent variations of the refractive index. This situation leads to introducing a symmetric and an anti-symmetric distortion coefficient, which can be combined into an effective optical distortion coefficient x that specifies the relative weight of birefringence compared to all other sources of distortion and shows that zero distortion can only be achieved with stress-birefringence free material having a negative dn/dl'. As in the case of mirror-faceplate materials, FoM’s for the pre-diffusion and the steady-state regimes emerge in a direct manner and demonstrate that fluoro-zirco-aluminate glass by far outperforms other window-material candidates in implementing the zero-distortion goal.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 August 1996
PDF: 24 pages
Proc. SPIE 10286, Inorganic Optical Materials: A Critical Review, 102860D (8 August 1996); doi: 10.1117/12.245188
Show Author Affiliations
Claude A. Klein, c.a.k. analytics, inc. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10286:
Inorganic Optical Materials: A Critical Review
Paul Klocek, Editor(s)

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