When a low-intensity light beam passes through a transparent substrate into an absorbing medium or falls on a reflecting mirror, little or no effect may be observed. When the intensity of the beam is increased, however, a whole range of reversible interactions can be called into play, depending on the irradiation and medium parameters. These interactions may occur whenever the irradiation is powerful enough, although the advent of the laser has given them prominence as common occurrences that must be considered whenever the specifications of high-power optical/laser systems are considered.
Laser-induced damage may occur at the faces of the optical component (front or rear depending on the direction of the laser beam), at interfaces between components (especially if they are in contact), or in the bulk of the component. Damage to systems may occur due to reflections between components. It is important to know the physical parameters of both the material and component as well as the way they are integrated into a system, before it is possible to make predictions as to the likelihood of laser-induced damage. The study of the theory, mechanisms, measurement, and amelioration of the laser-induced damage threshold (LIDT) has been a major research topic in the laser community for more than 30 years. There is a great amount of literature on the subject, as evidenced by the Proceedings of the Annual Boulder Damage Conference (originally published as special publications of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology and more recently by SPIE) and the literature published by the Laser Institute of America.
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