We study the modification of fluoride single crystals after irradiation with femtosecond laser pulses for a range of incident intensities from well below to near damage threshold. The behavior of the desorbed positive ion yields, as analyzed by time-of-flight mass spectrometry, is corroborated with temporal characteristics of radiation induced defects in fluorides.
The ion yield evolution upon repetitive irradiation (incubation) exhibits the typical reduction of the multi-shot damage threshold with increasing number of pulses. The experimental data point towards an exponential growth of the transient defect density as the origin of this effect. On the other hand, measurements of the time decay of transient defect fluorescence inside the transparent sample show that the defect lifetime may be even longer than tens of milliseconds.
To account for the incubation and the increase of the radiation-target coupling efficiency, a model relating the defect lifetime to a pulse-by-pulse accumulation of transient defects is presented, based on a calculation of the free electron density.