Recently, a team of OMST scientists, with input from collaborators at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, completed a project funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program to examine in detail coupling mechanisms between lasers and contaminants on optical surfaces.
Airborne particles generated during laser operation or present in a laboratory environment can relocate to other areas, potentially contaminating optical surfaces. Debris on the input side of an optical component can diffract incoming laser light, altering the beam path and promoting damage initiation on the exit side of the optic. Matthews’ LDRD team took a multifaceted approach to investigating the interaction of laser energy with micrometer-scale metallic and glass particles on optical surfaces.
Laser-induced pitting scatters the light from the laser and causes the optical surface to become hazy, but the team was not sure how problematic such effects were to overall laser performance.
Matthews also cites industrial settings in which optical surfaces play an important role, such as in lasers used to generate patterns or for machining materials with holes.
Key Words: debris, high-power laser, Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, National Ignition Facility, optic, optical damage, optical system, Optics and Materials Science and Technology organization, particle, plasma formation, surface contamination.