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A high power fiber delivery system has been developed for a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser. Multimode fibers with a core diameter of 400 μm were tested with a view to transmitting the maximum possible amount of optical energy. The importance of surface finish was investigated by employing a number of different polishing procedures. Atomic force microscopy and laser-induced damage threshold measurements were used to identify a clear correlation between surface finish and transmission capability. Surface roughness measurements as low as 3 nm were made and the transmission of up to 30 J/cm2 achieved. The front face of the fibers would be improved during laser testing due to plasma formation which acts to anneal the surface. The various damage mechanisms that limit the performance of the fiber have been studied and attributed to different optical and physical effects. The nature of the light spot emerging from the fiber was analyzed and quantified by beam profilometry. A number of different methods for altering the beam profile were tried but changing the length of the fiber was found to be the most effective. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.