Laser ablation or photoablation is the process of removing material from a solid (or occasionally liquid) surface by irradiating it with a laser beam. At low laser flux, the material is heated by the absorbed laser energy and evaporates or sublimates. At high laser flux, the material is typically converted to a plasma. Usually, laser ablation refers to removing material with a pulsed laser, but it is possible to ablate material with a continuous wave laser beam if the laser intensity is high enough. Excimer lasers of deep ultra-violet light are mainly used in photoablation; the wavelength of laser used in photoablation is approximately 200 nm.


The depth over which the laser energy is absorbed, and thus the amount of material removed by a single laser pulse, depends on the material's optical properties and the laser wavelength and pulse length. The total mass ablated from the target per laser pulse is usually referred to as ablation rate. Such features of laser radiation as laser beam scanning velocity and the covering of scanning lines can significantly influence the ablation process.[1]

Laser pulses can vary over a very wide range of duration (milliseconds to femtoseconds) and fluxes, and can be precisely controlled. This makes laser ablation very valuable for both research and industrial applications.

The simplest application of laser ablation is to remove material from a solid surface in a controlled fashion. Laser machining and particularly laser drilling are examples; pulsed lasers can drill extremely small, deep holes through very hard materials. Very short laser pulses remove material so quickly that the surrounding material absorbs very little heat, so laser drilling can be done on delicate or heat-sensitive materials, including tooth enamel (laser dentistry). Several workers have employed laser ablation and gas condensation to produce nano particles of metal, metal oxides and metal carbides.

Also, laser energy can be selectively absorbed by coatings, particularly on metal, so CO2 or Nd:YAG pulsed lasers can be used to clean surfaces, remove paint or coating, or prepare surfaces for painting without damaging the underlying surface. High power lasers clean a large spot with a single pulse. Lower power lasers use many small pulses which may be scanned across an area. In industrial application, laser ablation is known as laser cleaning.
Industrial 200W laser cleaning equipment.

One of the advantages is that no solvents are used, therefore it is environmentally friendly and operators are not exposed to chemicals (assuming nothing harmful is vaporized). It is relatively easy to automate. The running costs are lower than dry media or dry-ice blasting, although the capital investment costs are much higher. The process is gentler than abrasive techniques, e.g. carbon fibres within a composite material are not damaged. Heating of the target is minimal.

Another class of applications uses laser ablation to process the material removed into new forms either not possible or difficult to produce by other means. A recent example is the production of carbon nanotubes.

Laser cleaning is also used for efficient rust removal from iron objects; oil or grease removal from various surfaces; restoration of paintings, sculptures, frescoes. Laser ablation is one of preferred techniques for rubber mold cleaning due to minimal surface damage to the mold.

In March 1995 Guo et al.[2] were the first to report the use of a laser to ablate a block of pure graphite, and later graphite mixed with catalytic metal.[3] The catalytic metal can consist of elements such as cobalt, niobium, platinum, nickel, copper, or a binary combination thereof. The composite block is formed by making a paste of graphite powder, carbon cement, and the metal. The paste is next placed in a cylindrical mold and baked for several hours. After solidification, the graphite block is placed inside an oven with a laser pointed at it, and argon gas is pumped along the direction of the laser point. The oven temperature is approximately 1200 °C. As the laser ablates the target, carbon nanotubes form and are carried by the gas flow onto a cool copper collector. Like carbon nanotubes formed using the electric-arc discharge technique, carbon nanotube fibers are deposited in a haphazard and tangled fashion. Single-walled nanotubes are formed from the block of graphite and metal catalyst particles, whereas multi-walled nanotubes form from the pure graphite starting material.

A variation of this type of application is to use laser ablation to create coatings by ablating the coating material from a source and letting it deposit on the surface to be coated; this is a special type of physical vapor deposition called pulsed laser deposition (PLD),[4] and can create coatings from materials that cannot readily be evaporated any other way. This process is used to manufacture some types of high temperature superconductor and laser crystals.[5]

Remote laser spectroscopy uses laser ablation to create a plasma from the surface material; the composition of the surface can be determined by analyzing the wavelengths of light emitted by the plasma.

Laser ablation is also used to create pattern, removing selectively coating from dichroic filter. This products are used in stage lighting for high dimensional projections, or for calibration of machine vision's instruments.

Finally, laser ablation can be used to transfer momentum to a surface, since the ablated material applies a pulse of high pressure to the surface underneath it as it expands. The effect is similar to hitting the surface with a hammer. This process is used in industry to work-harden metal surfaces, and is one damage mechanism for a laser weapon. It is also the basis of pulsed laser propulsion for spacecraft.

The laser ablation of skin utilizes laser energy so CO2 or Nd:YAG pulsed lasers can be used to clean surfaces, remove pigmentation or improve but not cure the appearance of scar tissue, and resurface outer layers of skin without damaging the underlying surface.

Processes are currently being developed to use laser ablation in the removal of thermal barrier coating on high-pressure gas turbine components. Due to the low heat input, TBC removal can be completed with minimal damage to the underlying metallic coatings and parent material.
Chemical analysis

Laser ablation is used as a sampling method for elemental and isotopic analysis, and replaces traditional laborious procedures generally required for digesting solid samples in acid solutions. Laser ablation sampling is detected by monitoring the photons emitted at the sample surface - a technology referred to as LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) and LAMIS (Laser Ablation Molecular Isotopic Spectrometry), or by transporting the ablated mass particles to a secondary excitation source, like the inductively coupled plasma. Both mass spectroscopy (MS) and optical emission spectroscopy (OES) can be coupled with the ICP. The benefits of laser ablation sampling for chemical analysis include no sample preparation, no waste, minimal sample requirements, no vacuum requirements, rapid sample-analysis turn-around time, spatial (depth and lateral) resolution, and chemical mapping. Laser ablation chemical analysis is viable for practically all industries, such as mining, geochemistry, energy, environmental, industrial processing, food safety, forensic[6] and biological.[7][8] Commercial instruments are available for all markets to measure every element and isotope within a sample. Some instruments combine both optical and mass detection to extend the analysis coverage, and dynamic range in sensitivity.

Laser ablation is used in science to destroy nerves and other tissues to study their function. For example, a species of pond snail, Helisoma trivolvis, can have their sensory neurons laser ablated off when the snail is still an embryo to prevent use of those nerves.[9]

Another example is the trochophore larva of Platynereis dumerilii, where the larval eye was ablated and the larvae was not phototactic, anymore.[10] However phototaxis in the nectochaete larva of Platynereis dumerilii is not mediated by the larval eyes, because the larva is still phototactic, even if the larval eyes are ablated. But if the adult eyes are ablated, then the nectochaete is not phototactic anymore and thus phototaxis in the nectochaete larva is mediated by the adult eyes.[11]

Laser ablation can also be used to destroy individual cells during embryogenesis of an organism, like Platynereis dumerilii, to study the effect of missing cells during development.

There are several laser types used in medicine for ablation, including argon, carbon dioxide (CO2), dye, erbium, excimer, Nd:YAG, and others. Laser ablation is used in a variety of medical specialties including ophthalmology, general surgery, neurosurgery, ENT, dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and veterinary.[12] Laser scalpels are used for ablation in both hard- and soft-tissue surgeries. Some of the most common procedures where laser ablation is used include LASIK,[13] skin resurfacing, cavity preparation, biopsies, and tumor and lesion removal.[14] In soft-tissue surgeries, the CO2 laser beam ablates and cauterizes simultaneously, making it the most practical and most common soft-tissue laser.[15]

Laser ablation can be used on benign and malignant lesions in various organs, which is called laser-induced interstitial thermotherapy. The main applications currently involve the reduction of benign thyroid nodules[16] and destruction of primary and secondary malignant liver lesions.[17][18]

Laser ablation is also used to treat chronic venous insufficiency.[19]
See also

Parts cleaning
Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization
Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy
Laser surgery
Soft-tissue laser surgery
Laser scalpel
Dental laser
Laser cutting
Laser engraving
Laser bonding
List of laser articles
Optical breakdown photoionization mode (OB) at Photoionization mode
Soft retooling


Veiko V.P.; Skvortsov A.M.; Huynh Cong Tu; Petrov A.A. (2015). "Laser ablation of monocrystalline silicon under pulsed-frequency fiber laser". Scientific and Technical Journal of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics. 15 (3): 426.
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Robert Eason - Pulsed Laser Deposition of Thin Films: Applications-Led Growth of Functional Materials. Wiley-Interscience, 2006, ISBN 0471447099
Grant-Jacob, James A.; Beecher, Stephen J.; Parsonage, Tina L.; Hua, Ping; Mackenzie, Jacob I.; Shepherd, David P.; Eason, Robert W. (2016-01-01). "An 11.5 W Yb:YAG planar waveguide laser fabricated via pulsed laser deposition" (PDF). Optical Materials Express. 6 (1): 91. Bibcode:2016OMExp...6...91G. doi:10.1364/ome.6.000091. ISSN 2159-3930.
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Urgast, Dagmar S.; Beattie, John H.; Feldmann, Jörg (2014). "Imaging of trace elements in tissues". Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 17 (5): 431–439. doi:10.1097/MCO.0000000000000087. ISSN 1363-1950. PMID 25023186.
Pozebon, Dirce; Scheffler, Guilherme L.; Dressler, Valderi L.; Nunes, Matheus A. G. (2014). "Review of the applications of laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) to the analysis of biological samples". J. Anal. At. Spectrom. 29 (12): 2204–2228. doi:10.1039/C4JA00250D. ISSN 0267-9477.
Kuang S, Doran SA, Wilson RJ, Goss GG, Goldberg JI (2002). "Serotonergic sensory-motor neurons mediate a behavioral response to hypoxia in pond snail embryos". J. Neurobiol. 52 (1): 73–83. doi:10.1002/neu.10071. PMID 12115895.
Jékely, Gáspár; Colombelli, Julien; Hausen, Harald; Guy, Keren; Stelzer, Ernst; Nédélec, François; Arendt, Detlev (20 November 2008). "Mechanism of phototaxis in marine zooplankton". Nature. 456 (7220): 395–399. Bibcode:2008Natur.456..395J. doi:10.1038/nature07590. PMID 19020621.
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Berger, Noel A.; Eeg, Peter H. (2008-01-09). Veterinary Laser Surgery: A Practical Guide. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470344125.
Munnerlyn, C. R.; Koons, S. J.; Marshall, J. (1988-01-01). "Photorefractive keratectomy: a technique for laser refractive surgery". Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. 14 (1): 46–52. doi:10.1016/s0886-3350(88)80063-4. ISSN 0886-3350. PMID 3339547.
"Laser Use in Dentistry". WebMD. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
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Pacella CM; Francica G; Di Lascio FM; Arienti V; Antico E; Caspani B; Magnolfi F; Megna AS; Pretolani S; Regine R; Sponza M; Stasi R . (June 2009). "Long-term outcome of cirrhotic patients with early hepatocellular carcinoma treated with ultrasound-guided percutaneous laser ablation: a retrospective analysis". J Clin Oncol. 16: 2615–21.
Pompili M; Pacella CM; Francica G; Angelico M; Tisone G; Craboledda P; Nicolardi E; Rapaccini GL; Gasbarrini G . (June 2010). "Percutaneous laser ablation of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with liver cirrhosis awaiting liver transplantation". European Journal of Radiology. 74 (3): e6–e11. doi:10.1016/j.ejrad.2009.03.012. PMID 19345541.

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Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary,2002,6th edition,ISBN 0-19-860459-9


List of laser articles List of laser types List of laser applications Laser acronyms

Laser types: Solid-state
Semiconductor Dye Gas
Chemical Excimer Ion Metal Vapor

Laser physics

Active laser medium Amplified spontaneous emission Continuous wave Doppler cooling Laser ablation Laser cooling Laser linewidth Lasing threshold Magneto-optical trap Optical tweezers Population inversion Resolved sideband cooling Ultrashort pulse

Laser optics

Beam expander Beam homogenizer B Integral Chirped pulse amplification Gain-switching Gaussian beam Injection seeder Laser beam profiler M squared Mode-locking Multiple-prism grating laser oscillator Multiphoton intrapulse interference phase scan Optical amplifier Optical cavity Optical isolator Output coupler Q-switching Regenerative amplification

Laser spectroscopy

Cavity ring-down spectroscopy Confocal laser scanning microscopy Laser-based angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy Laser diffraction analysis Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy Laser-induced fluorescence Noise-immune cavity-enhanced optical heterodyne molecular spectroscopy Raman spectroscopy Second-harmonic imaging microscopy Terahertz time-domain spectroscopy Tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy Two-photon excitation microscopy Ultrafast laser spectroscopy

Laser ionization

Above-threshold ionization Atmospheric-pressure laser ionization Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization Resonance-enhanced multiphoton ionization Soft laser desorption Surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization Surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization

Laser fabrication

Laser beam welding Laser bonding Laser converting Laser cutting Laser cutting bridge Laser drilling Laser engraving Laser-hybrid welding Laser peening Multiphoton lithography Pulsed laser deposition Selective laser melting Selective laser sintering

Laser medicine

Computed tomography laser mammography Laser capture microdissection Laser hair removal Laser lithotripsy Laser coagulation Laser surgery Laser thermal keratoplasty LASIK Low-level laser therapy Optical coherence tomography Photorefractive keratectomy Photorejuvenation

Laser fusion

Argus laser Cyclops laser GEKKO XII HiPER ISKRA lasers Janus laser Laboratory for Laser Energetics Laser integration line Laser Mégajoule Long path laser LULI2000 Mercury laser National Ignition Facility Nike laser Nova (laser) Novette laser Shiva laser Trident laser Vulcan laser

Civil applications

3D laser scanner CD DVD Blu-ray Laser lighting display Laser pointer Laser printer Laser tag

Military applications

Advanced Tactical Laser Boeing Laser Avenger Dazzler (weapon) Electrolaser Laser designator Laser guidance Laser-guided bomb Laser guns Laser rangefinder Laser warning receiver Laser weapon LLM01 Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System Tactical High Energy Laser Tactical light ZEUS-HLONS (HMMWV Laser Ordnance Neutralization System)

Physics Encyclopedia



Hellenica World - Scientific Library

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