A major issue in the use of high-power lasers, such as the Laser Megajoule (LMJ), is laser-induced damage of optical components. One potential damage initiator is particulate contamination, but its effect is hard to distinguish from that of other damage precursors. To do so, we introduced artificial contaminants typical of metallic pollution likely to be present on the optical components of the LMJ chains. More precisely, aluminum particles of two different sizes were placed on a silica sample. These dots were characterized by optical microscopy and profilometry. Then they were exposed to a laser beam with a pulse length of at and fluences in the range from 1 to . Each dot was characterized again with the same techniques and also by photothermal microscopy. To complete the experimental results, we performed numerical simulations with a one-dimensional Lagrangian hydrodynamics code. We show that the particle removal by laser irradiation produces a modification of the silica surface that does not evolve into catastrophic damage under subsequent irradiation. However, the effect does depend on the size of the dots. We demonstrate that a procedure exists that removes the dot and leaves the site capable of resisting high fluence.
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