Abstract

We evaluate spark micro-discharges as the working element of laser switches that can operate on sub-nanosecond timescales, function over a broad range of wavelengths, and handle high laser power. Sparks were generated in room temperature argon at 11–51 bar and xenon at 3–11.6 bar. A continuous 405 nm wavelength laser light was focused through the spark gap, and its transmission was recorded by a high-speed photodiode. We demonstrate that the transition to opacity at the higher pressures is faster than our detection circuit’s 90%–10% fall time of 400 ps, indicating that the true fall time is 100 ps or shorter. The challenges to be overcome to improve device reliability are identified.

© 2019 Optical Society of America

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