This work studies the temperature field and the optical response of weakly absorbing thin films with thermally induced optical nonlinearity during picosecond to nanosecond pulsed-laser heating. A one-dimensional model is presented that examines the effects of the temperature dependent optical constants and the nonuniform absorption caused by interference. The energy equation is solved numerically, coupled with the matrix method in optical multilayer theory. Both cadmium sulfide (CdS) thin films and a zinc selenide (ZnSe) interference filter are considered. The computational results compare favorably with available experimental data on the ZnSe interference filter. This study shows that the transient temperature distributions in the films are highly nonuniform. Such nonuniformity yields Airy’s formulae for calculating the thin-film reflectance and transmittance inapplicable. Applications of the work include optical bistability, localized change of the film structure, and measurement of the thermal diffusivity of thin films.

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