Ultrafast pump-probe ellipsometry and microscopy reveal the surface dynamics of femtosecond laser ablation of aluminium and stainless steel
Winter, J.; Rapp, S.; Spellauge, M.; Eulenkamp, C.; Schmidt, M.; Huber, H. P.
An ultra-short laser pulse irradiated surface passes through a sequence of physical processes that occur over a wide temporal range, from femtoseconds to microseconds. In this paper for the first time, the complete laser ablation process for industrially relevant metals, aluminium (Al) and stainless steel (AISI 304) is tracked from the initial pulse impact to the final state. Time-resolved surface analytical techniques provide a complementary description of the surface dynamics. The pump-probe ellipsometry reveals changes of the complex refractive index for the first tens of picoseconds and time-resolved microscopy of the irradiated surface gives access to changes of the relative reflectivity from the initial femtosecond pulse impact to the final state at 10 μs. The changes in optical indices are affected by an ultrafast decrease in the density of the surface within the pressure unloading process in the first picoseconds and reveal spallation as the dominant mechanism for laser ablation in Al and stainless steel. The study also implies that the ablation volume is kept at an optimum when the ablation is initiated with ultrafast pulses within the pressure unloading process and is able to evolve over eight orders of magnitude without external perturbations.