This paper discusses how the profile of the residual surface relief of quartz glass in an irradiation spot depends on the number of active pulses of plane-polarized laser radiation with wavelength lambda = 10.6 µm. Based on experimental data, it is shown that an important role in the mechanism for forming periodic structures is played by the structural change of quartz glass subjected to melting and the associated change of its refractive index. Refractive-index gratings are detected in the near-surface layer of the glass in the total absence of periodic surface relief. When the radiation is normally incident, the period of the relief grating lies within the limits 8.9-9.1 µm, while the refractive-index grating lies within the limits 7.9-8.9 µm. These results agree with the model that explains the formation of the spatial modulation of radiation close to the surface of glass by the interference of the incident wave with surface phonon-polaritons. © 2004 Optical Society of America

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