In many fields of optical technology, progress is directly dependent on reliable and standardized characterization procedures for the applied system components. Optical components are especially often considered as key elements that may limit the potential and the efficiency of new products and applications. Prominent examples can be found in laser material processing or microlithography, where the economic efficiency is closely coupled to the optical losses and the lifetime of the beam steering or imaging systems. In research and development of laser systems for medical applications and information technology, optical components have to fulfill a variety of critical requirements, which can only be achieved on the basis of advanced production and characterization techniques. Also, for many pioneering experiments in fundamental physics on laser fusion, gravitational wave detection, or the generation of ultrashort pulses, high-quality optical components qualified in respect to their power-handling capability and their losses were essential for the success.
In this context, standardized optics characterization techniques are indispensable: they provide the means for a clear specification and comparison of the quality factors that are necessary for the design and implementation of every optical system. Standard measurement procedures are also important tools for the optimization, production, and commercialization of optical components within the global market. Therefore, in most optical companies and research institutes, standardized characterization techniques are maintained as a major tool for quality management within the production line, and they are developed further to keep pace with progress in laser technology. In the course of the rapid development of optics characterization techniques during the last 15 years, working groups within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have been initiated, which are dedicated to the standardization of measurement procedures for the quality assessment of optical and laser components.
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