Contrasting damage characteristics in direct incidence and surface plasmon mediated single-shot laser ablation of aluminium films

DA McNeill, T Morrow, P Dawson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Thin, oxidised Al films grown an one face of fused silica prisms are exposed. tinder ambient conditions, to single shots from an excimer laser operating at wavelength 248 nm. Preliminary characterisation of the films using attenuated total reflection yields optical and thickness data for the Al and Al oxide layers; this step facilitates the subsequent, accurate tuning of the excimer laser pulse to the: surface plasmon resonance at the Al/(oxide)/air interface and the calculation of the fluence actually absorbed by the thin film system. Ablation damage is characterised using scanning electron, and atomic force microscopy. When the laser pulse is incident, through the prism on the sample at less than critical angle, the damage features are molten in nature with small islands of sub-micrometer dimension much in evidence, a mechanism of film melt-through and subsegment blow-off due to the build up of vapour pressure at the substrate/film interface is appropriate. By contrast, when the optical input is surface plasmon mediated, predominately mechanical damage results with the film fragmenting into large flakes of dimensions on the order of 10 mu m. It is suggested that the ability of surface plasmons to transport energy leads to enhanced, preferential absorption of energy at defect sites causing stress throughout the film which exceeds the ultimate tensile stress for the film: this in turn leads to film break-up before melting can onset. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-52
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Surface Science
Publication statusPublished - May 1998
Event4th International Conference on Laser Ablation (COLA 97) - MONTEREY BAY, United States
Duration: 21 Jul 199725 Jul 1997


  • laser ablation
  • surface plasmon
  • thin film optics
  • IONS


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