Composites of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and water-soluble polymers (WSP) are the focus of significant worldwide research due to a number of applications in biotechnology and photonics, particularly for ultrashort pulse generation. Despite the unique possibility of constructing non-linear optical SWNT-WSP composites with controlled optical properties, their thermal degradation threshold and limit of operational power remain unexplored. In this study, we discover the nature of the SWNT-polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) film thermal degradation and evaluate the modification of the composite properties under continuous high-power ultrashort pulse laser operation. Using high-precision optical microscopy and micro-Raman spectroscopy, we have examined SWNT-PVA films before and after continuous laser radiation exposure (up to 40 hours) with a maximum optical fluence of 2.3 mJ·cm−2. We demonstrate that high-intensity laser radiation results in measurable changes in the composition and morphology of the SWNT-PVA film due to efficient heat transfer from SWNTs to the polymer matrix. The saturable absorber modification does not affect the laser operational performance. We anticipate our work to be a starting point for more sophisticated research aimed at the enhancement of SWNT-PVA films fabrication for their operation as reliable saturable absorbers in high-power ultrafast lasers.
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