We investigate the role of self-trapped excitons (STEs) and defects in the formation of femtosecond laser pulse induced nanogratings (NGs) in fused silica. Our experiments reveal strongly enhanced NG formation for pulse separations up to the STE lifetime. In addition, the absorption spectra show that the weaker cumulative action of laser pulses for longer temporal separations is predominantly mediated by dangling-bond-type lattice defects that emerge from decaying STEs.
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