Images taken with a high-speed camera show tiny mushroom clouds eerily similar in appearance to those created in a nuclear explosion. The clouds expand outward at speeds of 100 to 1,000 times the speed of sound within less than one nanosecond. However, new findings reveal that an earlier cloud forms immediately before the mushroom cloud, and this early plasma interferes with the laser pulses, hindering performance
Applied Physics Letters - Early-Stage Plasma Dynamics with Air Ionization During Ultrashort Laser Ablation of Metal
Finding a way to eliminate the interference caused by the early plasma could open up new applications in manufacturing, materials and chemical processing, machining and advanced sensors to monitor composition, and chemical and atomic reactions on an unprecedented scale, he said.
In this study, the early-stage plasma evolution generated by an ultrashort laser pulse is investigated through pump-probe shadowgraph measurements and simulations. The measurements are performed to show the evolution of the plasma front, while the simulation model is used to further investigate the evolution process and mechanism. Specifically, the laser pulse propagation in air is simulated using the beam propagation method with the slowly varying envelope approximation. The lattice dynamics, the electron dynamics and the multi-scattering event, and the evolution of charged particles (free electrons and ions), are simulated using a molecular dynamics method, a Monte Carlo method, and a particle-in-cell method, respectively. With this simulation model, the refractive index and plasma evolutions are calculated and compared with measured results to validate the simulation model. Different plasma expansion processes, caused by the air ionization, are found with the focal point slightly above and below the target. Air ionization occurs in both cases, but their primary mechanisms are shown to be different.
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