Point defects induced at the exit surface of optical-grade fused silica by high power (>30 J/cm2) 355 nm laser pulses have been investigated to elucidate the nature of laser damage in optics for use at high peak powers (>2 GW/cm2). Six defects have been identified. Eγ and E74 defects were identified using electron spin resonance spectroscopy. The nonbridging oxygen hole center, a self-trapped exciton, an oxygen-deficient center, and interstitial O2 were identified and spatially resolved in the damage craters using cathodoluminescence microanalysis. The defects are associated with the laser generated shock waves and/or thermal explosion.

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