Scattering from an initially plane surface of a thin Plexiglas plate damaged by an impinging coherent light beam of a laser is considered. The morphology and the characteristic dimensions of the damaged speckles was studied during the evolution of the phenomenon by interferometry and the creation of diffraction patterns. The cusped interferogram created by superposition of evoluting two initial diffraction patterns, created during successive damage steps, forms caustics corresponding to hyperbolic umbilic catastrophes. An experimental study of the evolution of the damage phenomenon clarifies the mechanisms of elastic and plastic deformations of the affected zone.
© 1997 Optical Society of America
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