Simultaneous time-space resolved reflectivity and interferometric measurements of dielectrics excited with femtosecond laser pulses
AbstractSimultaneous time-and-space resolved reflectivity and interferometric measurements over a temporal span of 300 ps have been performed in fused silica and sapphire samples excited with 800 nm, 120 fs laser pulses at energies slightly and well above the ablation threshold. The experimental results have been simulated in the frame of a multiple-rate equation model including light propagation. The comparison of the temporal evolution of the reflectivity and the interferometric measurements at 400 nm clearly shows that the two techniques interrogate different material volumes during the course of the process. While the former is sensitive to the evolution of the plasma density in a very thin ablating layer at the surface, the second yields an averaged plasma density over a larger volume. It is shown that self-trapped excitons do not appreciably contribute to carrier relaxation in fused silica at fluences above the ablation threshold, most likely due to Coulomb screening effects at large excited carrier densities. For both materials, at fluences well above the ablation threshold, the maximum measured plasma reflectivity shows a saturation behavior consistent with a scattering rate proportional to the plasma density in this fluence regime. Moreover, for both materials and for pulse energies above the ablation threshold and delays in the few tens of picoseconds range, a simultaneous “low reflectivity” and “low transmission” behavior is observed. Although this behavior has been identified in the past as a signature of femtosecond laser-induced ablation, its origin is alternatively discussed in terms of the optical properties of a material undergoing strong isochoric heating, before having time to substantially expand or exchange energy with the surrounding media.