Self-focusing and filamentation of nearly-Gaussian femtosecond laser pulses propagating in photosensitive silicate glass was investigated. The filamentation was visualized by the precipitation of NaF nano-crystallites along the beam pass after post-exposure treatment of photosensitive glass, which provides a direct proof that ionization of silicate matrix takes place along the filament propagation lines. Theoretical model of the multi-filamentation based on the propagation of a Gaussian beam with elliptical transverse intensity profile modulated by a spatial noise in a medium with multi-photon absorption is proposed. Self-action of the femtosecond Gaussian-Bessel pulses in borosilicate glass was observed at high fluence. This model reproduces qualitatively the dotted damage lines observed after the beam propagation in borosilicate glass.
Thermal effects are unavoidable in laser material processing and are present, to some extent, even in the case when ultra-short (sub-picosecond) pulsed irradiation is used. We discuss here the matters of high-precision energy delivery into micrometer-sized volumes for three-dimensional (3D) laser microfabrication. Precise account of the
absorbed energy, pulse duration, and focal spot size allows to optimize laser processing parameters. As an example, a 3D micro-structuring of silica with better than 15 μm resolution is demonstrated by pulses of 11 ns duration and 266 nm wavelength (for a focusing by a low numerical aperture NA = 0.029 lens). The two photon
absorption coefficient of silica, β ≃ 60 ± 10 cm/GW, at 266 nm has been determined. The thermal black-body type emission of non-equilibrated electrons is discussed as a possible light source for 3D modification and structuring of photo-sensitive and photo-polymerizable materials. It is also demonstrated that optical properties of ionized dielectrics can be used to determine the temperature.
The experimental results of wide band-gap materials treatment by femtosecond laser pulses are presented and discussed. Borosilicate glass drilling in air and vacuum, the surface and in-bulk three-dimensional laser processing with sub-micrometer resolution are subject of investigatios. Technical issues relevant for achieving high spatial resolution in order to meet requirements of nanotechnology at feature size smaller than 10 nm along with the issues of fabrication efficiency are outlined. Also, we show a concept of modular laser processing system, which can be flexibly optimized for processing by femtosecond laser pulses.
We report on quartz and glass cutting by a lateral scanning of femtosecond pulses (150 fs at 1 kHz repetition rate) of 800 nm wavelength at room and low pressure (5 Torr) air ambience. Pulses were focused by a low numerical aperture (NA0.1) objective lens. Optimization of fabrication conditions: pulse energy and scanning speed were carried out to achieve large-scale (millimeter-to-centimeter) cutting free of microcracks of submicron dimensions along the edges and walls of the cut. Cutting through out the samples of 0.1-0.5 mm thickness was successfully achieved without apparent heat affected zone. At low air pressure (5 Torr) ambience, redeposition of ablated material was considerably reduced. It is demonstrated that the damage on the rear surface was induced by the stress waves, which originated from the plasma ablation pressure pulse. The mechanism of femtosecond-laser cutting of transparent materials at high irradiance and the influence of stress waves generated by plasma plume are discussed.
Commercial femtosecond micromachining system (FMS) has been developed that capable to process the material in sub-micron (< 200 nm) and micron scale. Core of the system are: optical unit, controller unit and software. The other parts: fs-laser system; focusing unit; stage unit can be varied (exchangeable). Two different fs-laser systems already are compatible with core of FMS: Mira/RegA (Coherent) and Hurricane (Spectra-Physics). FMS controller unit allows to control every single fs-pulse delivery on the target. Three possible types of focusing unit are available: microscope type unit, long focal distance lens unit, and axicon lens based unit. Standard stage unit options are: three-axis piezostage, and two-axis air bearing stage combined with Z-axis piezostage. Repeatability for all dimensions is within ±5 nm. Also, step motor stages are available. The system allows 3D scan with confocal laser-microscope (resolution δr=200nm, δz=540nm) build in optical unit. Software controls all basic functions of the system performance and writing any pattern (including 3D) on or into specimen. The results obtained by direct fs-laser writing method are presented and discussed: bits in the range of 100 - 200 nm sizes, 6 TB/cm<sup>3</sup> density optical storage matrix, waveguides fabrication inside transparent materials, high aspect ratio (1:125) patterning of dielectric materials with Gauss-Bessel beam.