Spatio-temporal analysis of glass volume processing using ultrashort laser pulses
Ultrashort laser pulses allow for the in-volume processing of glass through non-linear absorption, resulting in permanent material changes and the generation of internal stress. Across the manifold potential applications of this technology, process optimization requires a detailed understanding of the laser-matter interaction. Of particular relevance are the deposition of energy inside the material and the subsequent relaxation processes. In this paper, we investigate the spatio-temporal evolution of free carriers, energy transfer, and the resulting permanent modifications in the volume of glass during and after exposure to femtosecond and picosecond pulses. For this purpose, we employ time-resolved microscopy in order to obtain shadowgraphic and interferometric images that allow relating the transient distributions to the refractive index change profile. Whereas the plasma generation time is given by the pulse duration, the thermal dynamics occur over several microseconds. Among the most notable features is the emergence of a pressure wave due to the sudden increase of temperature and pressure within the interaction volume. We show how the structure of the modifications, including material disruptions as well as local defects, can be directly influenced by a judicious choice of pulse duration, pulse energy, and focus geometry.