Laser smoothing of reactive ion-etched (RIE) gratings and arbitrary multi-step structures in silica by a CO2 laser is shown to provide controlled relaxation of etched step features over scale lengths between 2µm and 30µm. Step heights of 1µm or less relax symmetrically, giving uniform edge softening. Asymmetry of the relaxation is seen for 3µm step height. However, the process enhances unwanted undercuts and grooves produced by etching errors. The process is promising for the production of low light scatter micro-optic components using low-cost binary or multi-level etched structures as a precursor

© 2008 Optical Society of America

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