The intensity distribution of an initially plane light wave incident on planar and conical surface cracks is calculated numerically by using a wave propagation computer code. The results show that light intensity enhancements caused by interference of internal reflections at the crack and the surface are very sensitive to the light polarization, the beam angle of incidence, and the crack geometry (e.g., crack width and orientation with the surface). The light intensity enhancement factor (LIEF) can locally reach 2 orders of magnitude for conical cracks of ideal shape. The electric field direction relative to the crack surfaces determines the light intensity profile around the crack. For normal-incidence illumination on the output surface, total internal reflection at the crack and the surface can occur and leads to higher LIEFs. For identical geometry and illumination conditions, a crack located on the entrance surface of an optic generates electric field enhancements that are weaker than those on the exit surface. As cracks on polished surfaces are randomly oriented, the probability for large intensity enhancements to occur is high. The model is able to predict quantitatively the magnitude of surface laser-induced damage threshold drop and damage propagation enhancement in dielectric materials that are due to cracks.
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