Ultrashort-laser-pulse damage threshold of transparent materials and the role of incubation
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We present investigations of the surface damage threshold for transparent materials, e.g. a-SiO2, CaF2 and LiF, after single- and multiple-laser-pulse irradiation at 800 nm in the picosecond and sub-picosecond duration range. Our study shows clearly that the surface damage threshold drops dramatically during multiple-laser-shot irradiation, due to material-dependent incubation effects. This has important consequences for applications such as laser machining and for the lifetime of optical components. Different processes that can reduce the surface damage threshold with increasing laser shots are evaluated, such as sub-surface damage and defect formation. The mechanism of laser-induced defect formation, e.g. color centers, is believed to be mainly responsible for the observed reduction in the threshold for surface damage with increasing laser-shot numbers.