Proceedings PaperLaser Damage to Optical Components
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The advent of the laser in 1960 substantially modified the use and teaching of optics. At one stage the laser was termed `a solution looking for an application'. Nowadays the applications have arrived and range from long haul telecommunications, metal working, medical diagnostics, surgery, optical metrology to battlefield use, Strategic Defence Initiative, SDI applications. Most of this change has been generated because a considerable amount of development has been put into reducing the laser down to an acceptable size for the application while increasing the efficiency and energy and power outputs. This has led to the problem of laser induced damage approaching from two mututally irreconcilable directions. Not only, because of its monochromaticity, low divergence and coherence the laser can be focused to diffraction limited spot sizes and therefore be used for fusion and defence applications as well as being a hazard to eyes and viewing optics, but the laser resonator itself provides one of the most hostile environments that an optical component can be subjected to. Not only are laser components called upon to handle ever greater power and energy densities but they also have to withstand adverse conditions in terms of u.v. irradiation, plasma arcs, and the presence of active species. This paper briefly summarises the factors affecting the laser induced damage thresholds of components and coatings used in optical systems and laser resonators and then goes on to discuss the changes and consequent component damage/system degradation that is induced in the characteristics of these components during the irradiation interval.