Investigation of UV, ns-laser damage resistance of hafnia films produced by electron beam evaporation and ion beam sputtering deposition methods
Laser-induced damage in coating materials with a high index of refraction, such as hafnia, limits the performance of high power and high energy laser systems. Understanding the underlying physics responsible for laser damage holds the key for developing damage-resistant optical films. Previous studies have reported a substantial difference in laser damage onset for hafnia films produced by different deposition methods, yet the underlying mechanisms for the observed difference remain elusive. We combined laser damage testing with analytical characterizations and theoretical simulations to investigate the response of hafnia films produced by electron (e-) beam evaporation vs ion beam sputtering (IBS) methods upon UV ns-laser exposure. We found that e-beam produced hafnia films were overall more damage resistant; in addition, we observed a polarization anisotropy associated with the onset of damage in the e-beam films, while this effect was absent in the latter films. The observed differences can be attributed to the stark contrast in the pressure inside the pores inherent in both films. The high pressure inside the IBS-induced nanobubbles has been shown to reduce the threshold for laser-induced plasma breakdown leading to film damage. The polarization effects in the e-beam coatings can be related to the asymmetric electric field intensification induced by the columnar void structure. Our findings provide a fundamental basis for developing strategies to produce laser damage-resistant coatings for UV pulsed laser applications.