We report on small optical reflection increases after illumination of nanometer thick gold and aluminum thin films on different substrates with single, femtosecond 400 nm wavelength pump laser pulses, in a pre-ablation fluence regime. In this fluence regime, small, irreversible and subtle morphological changes of the sample are observed. Dark-field, scanning electron, and atomic force microscopy images reveal subwavelength spallation features in the aluminum, and delamination in the gold layers in this pre-ablation regime. All of these morphological changes coincide with minute optical increases in the reflectivity, at the 0.1−2% level, as observed in-situ with a weak probe beam. From Liu-analysis, transfer-matrix, and two-temperature model calculations, we infer that in this pre-ablation regime, the aluminum layers already reach the melting temperature. Electron Backscatter Diffraction measurements show that the Al grains melt and resolidify into bigger grains. This suggests that for Al, resolidification into bigger grains is responsible for both the increased reflection, and the spallation in the pre-ablation regime. For gold, the optical change is most likely due to the etalon effect caused by delamination.

Opt. Express
Light-Matter Interaction

Abram, E., Milov, I., Orlov, N., van Druten, K., Garnett, E., & Planken, P. (2024). Pre-ablation regime light-induced optical changes in nanometer thick metal films. Opt. Express, 32(3), 4564–4587. doi:10.1364/oe.507689