A model based on the evolution of electron density derived from the Fokker-Planck equation has been built to describe ablation of dielectrics during femtosecond laser pulses. The model is verified against an experimental investigation of borosilicate glass with a 200fs laser pulse centered at 780nm wavelength in a range of laser energies. The ablation mechanisms in dielectrics include multi-photon ionization (MPI) and avalanche ionization. MPI dominates the ionization process during the first stages of the laser pulse, contributing seed electrons which supply avalanche ionization. The avalanche process initiates and becomes responsible for the majority of free-electron generation. The overall material removal is shown to be highly dependent upon the optical response of the dielectric as plasma is formed. The ablation model is employed to predict the response of borosilicate glass to an enhanced electromagnetic field due to the presence of microspheres on the substrate surface. It is shown that the diffraction limit can be broken, creating nanoscale surface modification. An experimental study accompanies the model, with AFM and SEM characterizations that are consistent with the predicted surface modifications.

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