Abstract

By modifying some structural characteristics, the annealing process can have considerable effects on the optical performance of the solgel-derived ZrO2 xerogel films. Annealing at increasing temperature from 150°Cto750°C gives rise to first an increase of refractive index from 1.63 (at 633nm) to 1.93 and then a decrease to 1.86 with the watershed temperature of 550°C. This can be associated with the evolutions in both packing density and structure order of the films due to the removal of organic segments, material crystallization, and phase transformation. The optical bandgap is found to decrease from 5.63to4.97eV over the entire temperature range, suggesting an increasing nonlinear absorption in the case of high-power laser irradiation. Moreover, annealing completely destroys the network structure of the xerogel films that is suspected to facilitate the energy relaxation. Thus, the combined effect of the greatly weakened endurance and possible enhanced absorption to irradiation laser leads to a monotonous decrease of the laser-induced damage threshold from 55to10Jcm2 (at 1053nm, 10ns pulse duration, and R/1 testing mode).

© 2007 Optical Society of America

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