Laser micromachining of aluminum films on glass substrates is investigated using a time-resolved transmission imaging technique with nanosecond resolution. Micromachining is performed using a 7 ns pulse-width Nd:YAG laser operating at the 1064 nm wavelength for fluences ranging from 2.2 to 14.5 J/cm2. Transmission imaging uses a nitrogen laser-pumped dye laser with a 3 ns pulse-width and 500 nm wavelength. Images are taken from the back of the sample at various time delays with respect to the beginning of the ablation process, allowing the transient hole opening process to be observed and measured. Results show that for high fluences the holes begin opening during the laser pulse and that the major portion of the holes have opened within the first 50 ns of the process. The second stage of the process is slower and lasts between 100–200 ns. The rapid hole opening process can be attributed to melt expulsion due to recoil pressure on the surface of the melt pool rather than Marangoni flow. Recoil pressure may be due to vaporization at the free surface at low fluences and phase explosion (explosive liquid-vapor phase change) at higher fluences. Measurements of the transient shock wave position are used to estimate the pressure behind the shock wave and indicate pressures at high as 89 atm during ablation. The high pressure above the laser spot results in pressure on the molten surface, leading to expulsion of the molten pool in the radial direction.

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