For fifty years, a considerable effort has been and is still being directed to the production of optical coatings using liquid deposition route. Sol-Gel is a chemical process widely used for oxide material preparation. Based on smooth chemistry (low temperature conditions), sol-gel allows nanoparticle and polymeric material synthesis dispersed in appropriate liquid medium. The process investigated at CEA (French Commission for Atomic Energy) is strongly developed to afford coatings onto mineral or metallic substrates using colloidal oxide-based and/or inorganic-organic hybrid materials. Such a chemical process is sufficiently adjustable to develop purpose-built materials and coatings for high power laser optical components, taking into account the high laser damage threshold requirement. Because the CEA megajoule-class pulsed laser is needing 7,000-m2 of coated area onto 10,000 large-sized optical components, we have developed to date, several optical coating procedures, each optical thin film being prepared from a specific material and deposition process. First need to fulfil was the antireflective (AR) coating required for transparent optics and used to increase laser light transmission and to suppress damaging residual reflection. The as-developed AR-coatings were made of nanosized particle-containing fragile single layer or abrasion-resistant polymeric-based broadband layer stack. For used on highly-reflective (HR) component, a specific unstressed multilayer coating has been developed and deposited onto deformable adaptative end-cavity mirror substrate. This HR-coating is made of quaterwave stack of colloidal-based low index and hybrid high index thin films.
Using such materials, first high ratio polarizing sol-gel coatings have been also produced. Apart optical coating preparation, sol-gel chemistry has been used to develop an hybrid dense protective thin film to enhance durability of oxidation-sensitive silver cavity reflectors. Each coating material preparation and room-temperature deposition process will be described. Because the sol-gel technology offers outstanding technical and economical advantages over the conventional vacuum techniques, this process has been transferred to one of THALES production plant for megajoule-class laser prototype supplying.