Abstract

A study of the surface modification induced by single femtosecond laser pulses in phosphate glass has revealed surface swelling at fluences just below the ablation threshold. This behavior is different from that observed in other dielectric materials. Optical micrographs obtained with monochromatic light show a pattern of Newton rings within the swollen region whose number scales inversely with the illumination wavelength, acting as a micro Fabry–Perot etalon. The swollen surface layer has lower refractive index than the bulk glass and can reach a maximum thickness of 820 nm. We relate these findings to results obtained during subsurface waveguide writing inside phosphate glass, which also show a refractive index decrease at energies near threshold for waveguide fabrication. We have identified low density free-electron plasma to be the trigger of the refractive index change.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

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