- A detailed experimental study of the gain and temperature in the cavity of a supersonic chemical oxygen-iodine laser (COIL) is carried out to find optimal values of the flow parameters corresponding to the maximum gain. It is found that high gain (>0.7%/cm) can be obtained in a COIL operating without primary buffer gas and, hence, having a high gas temperature (>250 K) in the cavity. The measurements are performed for slit nozzles with different numbers and positions of iodine injection holes. Using a diode laser-based diagnostic, the gain is studied as a function of the molar flow rates of various reagents, with optical axis position along and across the flow, and Mach number in the cavity. Maximum gain of 0.73%/cm is obtained at chlorine and secondary nitrogen flow rates of 15 mmole/s and 7 mmole/s, respectively, for a slit nozzle with transonic injection of iodine. The gain is found to be strongly inhomogeneous across the flow. For a slit nozzle with iodine injection in the diverging part of the nozzle, the values of the maximum gain are smaller than for nozzles with transonic injection. Opening a leak downstream of the cavity in order to decrease the Mach number and increase the cavity pressure results in a decrease of the gain and dissociation fraction. The gain is a nonmonotonic function of the iodine flow rate, whereas the temperature increases with increasing iodine flow. An analytical model is developed for calculating in slit nozzles the iodine dissociation fraction F and the number N of O/sub 2/(/sup 1//spl Delta/) molecules lost in the region of iodine dissociation per I/sub 2/ molecule.