Investigations into improving the performance of discharge-pumped rare-gas-halide excimer lasers
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The construction and operation of a small active volume, discharge pumped, rare gas halide excimer laser is described. The values of laser output parameters such as pulse duration, pulse energy and overall efficiency presently achieved with such systems are much less that theoretical studies predict. The performance of this laser when pumped using a novel pulsed power modulator design containing nonlinear capacitors to produce a very fast rise time voltage pulse is contrasted with the performance obtained from a conventional driver circuit. The purpose of this was to determine if such circuits could lead to improvements in glow discharge stability and also laser pumping efficiency by quickly achieving the optimum pumping rates predicted by theory. It was concluded that while the rapid establishment of optimum pumping conditions may be beneficial, too fast a rate of rise of discharge current appears to be detrimental to discharge stability, probably due to skin effects. Having established that premature glow discharge collapse is a serious limiting factor in producing long duration excimer laser pulses, a study is carried out of the factors believed to influence discharge stability. While the effects of halogen donors on discharge stability have received most attention in the past the part played by the other constituents of the laser gas mix tends to have been neglected. A theoretical and experimental study of the role of the rare gas partners, xenon, krypton and argon is presented. It is well known that gas mixes using helium as the buffer gas perform less well than with a neon buffer and this is attributed to the driving of discharge instabilities rather than kinetic factors. A comparison of the relative influences of the buffer gases helium, neon and argon on discharge stability is carried out and claims by other workers for improved laser performance using a mixed helium / argon buffer are tested. Finally, in an attempt to inhibit the mechanisms driving glow discharge collapse, the effects of externally applied magnetic fields on discharge stability and laser performance are investigated.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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