Results of a novel X-ray laser application, aimed at understanding the microscopic effects involved in formation of laserinduced
damage in optical materials exposed to sub-ns laser pulses, will be presented. Specifically, we studied thin plane
beamsplitters that are presently the weakest element of the next generation of high-energy lasers (LMJ, NIF), with
permanent damage threshold below 20 J/cm<sup>2</sup>. Standard fused silica substrates and a model system, containing welldefined
micron grooves as seeding sites to trigger damage when irradiated by 438 nm laser pulses, were in situ probed by
a neon-like zinc X-ray laser delivering up to 10 mJ at 21.2 nm. The probing beamline employed a double Lloyd's mirror
interferometer, used in conjunction with an imaging mirror to provide magnification of ~8. In conjunction with an array
of in-situ optical diagnostics, one of the questions addressed was whether the damage (transient or permanent) on the
rear surface of the beamsplitter occurs during or after the laser pulse, i.e. whether it is due to local electrical fields or to
other processes. Another issue, examined by both the X-ray interferometric microscopy and the optical diagnostics, is
whether a local rear-surface modification is associated with non-linear effects (self-focusing, filamentation) of the laser
beam in the bulk.
Recent experiments were carried out on the Prague Asterix Laser System (PALS) towards the
demonstration of a soft x-ray laser Thomson scattering diagnostic for a laser-produced exploding foil. The
Thomson probe utilized the Ne-like zinc x-ray laser which was
double-passed to deliver ~1 mJ of focused
energy at 21.2 nm wavelength and lasting ~100 ps. The plasma under study was heated single-sided using a
Gaussian 300-ps pulse of 438-nm light (3ω of the PALS iodine laser) at laser irradiances of 10<sup>13</sup>-10<sup>14</sup> W
cm<sup>-2</sup>. Electron densities of
10<sup>20</sup>-10<sup>22</sup> cm<sup>-3</sup> and electron temperatures from 200 to 500 eV were probed at
0.5 or 1 ns after the peak of the heating pulse during the foil plasma expansion. A flat-field 1200 line mm<sup>-1</sup>
variable-spaced grating spectrometer with a cooled charge-coupled device readout viewed the plasma in the
forward direction at 30° with respect to the x-ray laser probe. We show results from plasmas generated
from ~1 μm thick targets of Al and polypropylene (C<sub>3</sub>H<sub>6</sub>). Numerical simulations of the Thomson
scattering cross-sections will be presented. These simulations show electron peaks in addition to a narrow
ion feature due to collective (incoherent) Thomson scattering. The electron features are shifted from the
frequency of the scattered radiation approximately by the electron plasma frequency ±ω<sub><i>pe</i></sub> and scale as <i>n<sub>e</sub></i><sup>1/2</sup>.
We present a review of recent development and applications of soft x-ray lasers, undertaken at the PALS Centre. The applications benefit from up to 10-mJ pulses at the wavelength of 21.2 nm. We describe the pumping regimes used to produce this soft x-ray laser, and outline its emission characteristics. A significant fraction of applications carried out using this device includes probing of dense plasmas produced by IR laser pulses and high-energy-density-in-matter experiments. Results obtained in these experiments are reviewed, including x-ray laser probing of dense plasmas, measurements of transmission of focused soft x-ray radiation at intensities of up to 10<sup>12</sup> Wcm<sup>-2</sup>, measurements of IR laser ablation rates of thin foils, and probing high density plasmas by x-ray laser Thomson scattering
The ablation of plain aluminium foil and aluminium foil with a thin (50 nm) iron coating was observed using a neon-like zinc x-ray laser. The 21.2 nm x-ray laser was produced by a double pass of a 3 cm long zinc target at the PALS centre in Prague. The x-ray laser was used to probe the sample targets as they were heated by a separate laser beam of 10 J, focussed to a 100 micron diameter spot. The data from the experiment are presented and compared with Ehybrid simulations and simple ablation rate calculations.
We give an overview of recent advances in development and applications of deeply saturated Ne like zinc soft X-ray laser at PALS, providing strongly saturated emission at 21.2 nm. Population inversion is produced in the regime of long scale-length density plasma, which is achieved by a very large time separation between the prepulse (<10 J) and the main pump pulse (~500 J), of up to 50 ns. This pumping regime is unique in the context of current x-ray laser research. An extremely bright and narrowly collimated double-pass x-ray laser beam is obtained, providing ~10 mJ pulses and ~100 MW of peak power, which is the most powerful soft X-ray laser yet demonstrated. The programme of applications recently undertaken includes precision measurements of the soft X-ray opacity of laser irradiated metals relevant to stellar astrophysics, soft X-ray interferometric probing of optical materials for laser damage studies, soft X-ray material ablation relevant to microfabrication technologies, and pilot radiobiology studies of DNA damage in the soft X-ray region. A concomitant topic is focusing the x-ray laser beam down to a narrow spot, with the final goal of achieving ~10<sup>13</sup> Wcm<sup>-2</sup>.
We present early results of an application of X-ray laser, aimed at understanding the effects involved in formation of laser-induced damage in optical materials exposed to sub-ns laser pulses. For the purpose of the experiment, a novel interferometric microscopy technique was designed and tested. The interferometric beamline employed a double Lloyd's mirror interferometer, used in conjunction with an imaging mirror to provide magnification of ~8 along a plane
inclined with respect to the propagation direction of the X-ray beam. The objects investigated were thin plane beamsplitters made of fused silica (SiO<sub>2</sub>), irradiated by damaging laser light at 438 nm and in situ probed by the developed technique of interferometric microscopy. The soft X-ray beam was emitted by neon-like zinc laser, delivering up to 10 mJ at 21.2 nm. In conjunction with an array of in-situ optical diagnostics, one of the questions addressed was whether the damage of the rear surface of the beamsplitter occurs approximately during of much after the laser pulse. Another issue examined by the X-ray interferometric microscopy technique was whether the surface perturbation seen shortly after the impact of the damaging pulse is associated or not with the pattern of permanent surface modifications.
We have developed a double Lloyd's mirror wavefront-splitting interferometer, constituting a compact device for surface probing in the XUV and soft X-ray spectral domain. The device consists of two independently adjustable superpolished flat surfaces, operated under grazing incidence angle to reflect a diverging or parallel beam. When the mirrors are appropriately inclined to each other, the structure produces interference fringes at the required distance and with tuneable fringe period. The double Lloyd's mirror may be used alone for surface topography with nanometric altitude resolution, or in conjunction with an imaging element for interferometric XUV surface microscopy. In the latter case, resolution in the plane of the probed
surface is about micron, which is given by the quality of the imaging element and/or by the detector pixel size. Here, we present results obtained using the double Lloyd's mirror in two separate X-ray laser and high harmonics generation (HHG) application projects. The first
experiment was aimed at understanding microscopic nature of the effects involved in laserinduced optical damage of thin pellicles, exposed to sub-ns laser pulses (438 nm) producing fluence of up to 10 Jcm<sup>-2</sup>. The probing source in this case was a QSS neon-like zinc soft X-ray laser, proving a few mJ at 21.2 nm in ~100-ps pulses. The second experiment was carried out using a narrowly collimated HHG beam near 30 nm, employed to topographically probe the surface of a semiconductor chip.
The multi-mJ, 21-nm soft-x-ray laser at the PALS facility was focused on the surface of amorphous carbon (a-C) coating, developed for heavily loaded XUV/x-ray optical elements. AFM (Atomic Force Microscopy) images show 3-micrometer expansion of the irradiated material. Raman spectra, measured with an Ar<sup>+</sup> laser microbeam in both irradiated and unirradiated areas, confirm a high degree of graphitization in the irradiated layer. In addition to this highfluence (~ 1 J/cm<sup>2</sup>), single-shot experiment, it was necessary to carry out an experiment to investigate consequences of prolonged XUV irradiation at relatively low fluence. High-order harmonic (HH) beam generated at the LUCA facility in CEA/Saclay Research Center was used as a source of short-wavelength radiation delivering high-energy photons on the surface at a low single-shot fluence but with high-average power. a-C irradiated at a low fluence, i.e., < 0.1 mJ/cm<sup>2</sup> by many HH shots exhibits an expansion for several nanometers. Although it is less dramatic change of surface morphology than that due to single-hot x-ray-laser exposure even the observed nanometer-sized changes caused by the HH beam on a-C surface could influence reflectivity of a grazing incidence optical element. These results seem to be important for estimating damages to the surfaces of highly irradiated optical elements developed for guiding and focusing the ultraintense XUV/x-ray beams provided by new generation sources (i.e., VUV FEL and XFEL in Hamburg; LCLS in Stanford) because, up to now, only melting and vaporization, but not graphitization, have been taken into account.
For conventional wavelength (UV-vis-IR) lasers delivering radiation energy to the surface of materials, ablation thresholds, ablation (etch) rates, and the quality of ablated structures often differ dramatically between short (typically nanosecond) and ultrashort (typically femtosecond) pulses. Various short-wavelength (<100 nm) lasers emitting pulses with durations ranging from ~10 fs to ~1 ns have recently been put into routine operation. This makes it possible to investigate how ablation characteristics depend on pulse duration in the XUV spectral region. Four sources of intense short-wavelength radiation available in the authors' laboratories, including XUV and soft x-ray lasers, are used for the ablation experiments. Based on the results of the experiments, the etch rates for three different pulse durations are compared using the XUV-ABLATOR code to compensate for the wavelength difference. Comparing the values of etch rates calculated for nanosecond pulses with those measured for shorter pulses, we can study the influence of pulse duration on XUV ablation efficiency. The results of the experiments also show that the ablation rate increases while the wavelength decreases from the XUV spectral region toward x-rays, mainly due to increase of attenuation lengths at short wavelengths.
Program of development of deeply saturated Ne-like zinc soft X-ray laser at the PALS (Prague Asterix Laser System) Centre, employing as a pump device a kilojoule high-power iodine laser, is reviewed. The active medium giving rise to laser action at 21.2 nm is generated using a sequence of multiple-100-ns IR pump pulses, consisting of a weak prepulse (<10J), followed after 10 or 50 ns by the main pump pulse (~500 J). The population inversion in the resulting long scale-length density plasma allows to generate an extremely bright and narrowly collimated X-ray laser beam, providing up to ~10 mJ pulses and ~100 MW of peak power, which is the most powerful soft X-ray laser yet implemented. This device was recently used as radiation source in pilot radiobiology study of DNA damage in the soft X-ray region, and in material ablation. A novel interferometric device, based on double Lloyd's mirror, is being developed for surface nanometric probing with teh soft X-ray laser as a source. A test experiment was performed to assess focusing properties of the X-ray laser beam down to a narrow spot, with the ultimate goal of achieving 10<sup>13</sup> Wcm<sup>-2</sup> for novel applications relevant to e.g. laboratory astrophysics.
Radiation from the Ne-like Zn soft x-ray laser (λ=21.2 nm, τ< 100 ps) driven by PALS (Prague Asterix Laser System) was successfully focused with a spherical Si/Mo multilayer-coated mirror to ablate poly(methyl methacrylate), monocrystalline silicon, and amorphous carbon. To our knowledge, this was the first observation of material ablation with a laser working in the soft x-ray region, i.e. λ<30 nm.
For conventional wavelength (UV-Vis-IR) lasers delivering radiation energy to the surface of materials, ablation thresholds, ablation (etch) rates, and the quality of ablated structures often differ dramatically between short (typically nanosecond) and ultrashort (typically femtosecond) pulses. Various short-wavelength (l < 100 nm) lasers emitting pulses with durations ranging from ~ 10 fs to ~ 1 ns have recently been put into a routine operation. This makes it possible to investigate how the ablation characteristics depend on the pulse duration in the XUV spectral region. 1.2-ns pulses of 46.9-nm radiation delivered from a capillary-discharge Ne-like Ar laser (Colorado State University, Fort Collins), focused by a spherical Sc/Si multilayer-coated mirror were used for an ablation of organic polymers and silicon. Various materials were irradiated with ellipsoidal-mirror-focused XUV radiation (λ = 86 nm, τ = 30-100 fs) generated by the free-electron laser (FEL) operated at the TESLA Test Facility (TTF1 FEL) in Hamburg. The beam of the Ne-like Zn XUV laser (λ = 21.2 nm, τ < 100 ps) driven by the Prague Asterix Laser System (PALS) was also successfully focused by a spherical Si/Mo multilayer-coated mirror to ablate various materials. Based on the results of the experiments, the etch rates for three different pulse durations are compared using the XUV-ABLATOR code to compensate for the wavelength difference. Comparing the values of etch rates calculated for short pulses with those measured for ultrashort pulses, we can study the influence of pulse duration on XUV ablation efficiency. Ablation efficiencies measured with short pulses at various wavelengths (i.e. 86/46.9/21.2 nm from the above-mentioned lasers and ~ 1 nm from the double stream gas-puff Xe plasma source driven by PALS) show that the wavelength influences the etch rate mainly through the different attenuation lengths.
Ablation thresholds, etch rates, and quality of ablated structures often differ dramatically if a conventional, UV-Vis-IR laser delivers radiation energy onto a material surface in a short (nanosecond) or ultra-short (picosecond/femtosecond) pulses. Various short-wavelength (λ < 100 nm) lasers emitting pulses with durations ranging from ~ 10 fs to ~ 1 ns have recently been put into a routine operation. This makes possible to investigate how the ablation characteristics depends on the pulse duration in the XUV spectral region. 1.2-ns pulses of 46.9-nm radiation delivered from a capillary-discharge Ne-like Ar laser, focused by a spherical Sc/Si multilayer-coated mirror were used for an ablation of organic polymers and silicon. Various materials were irradiated with an ellipsoidal-mirror-focused XUV radiation (λ = 86 nm, τ = 30-100 fs) generated by the free-electron laser (FEL) operated at the TESLA Test Facility (TTF1 FEL) in Hamburg. The beam of the Ne-like Zn XUV laser (λ = 21.2 nm, τ < 100 ps) driven by the Prague Asterix Laser System (PALS) was also successfully focused by a spherical Si/Mo multilayer-coated mirror to ablate various materials. Based on the results of the experiment the etch rates for three different pulse durations are compared using the XUV-ABLATOR code to compensate for the wavelength difference. Comparing the values of etch rates calculated for short pulses with the measured ones for ultrashort pulses we may study the influence of pulse duration on the XUV ablation efficiency.