, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 525-531

Photoacoustic cavitation in spherical and cylindrical absorbers

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Photomechanical damage in absorbing regions or particles surrounded by a non-absorbing medium is investigated experimentally and theoretically. The damage mechanism is based on the generation of thermoelastic pressure by absorption of pulsed laser radiation under conditions of stress confinement. Principles of photoacoustic sound generation predict that the acoustic wave generated in a finite-size absorbing region must contain both compressive and tensile stresses. Time-resolved imaging experiments were performed to examine whether the tensile stress causes cavitation in absorbers of spherical or cylindrical shape. The samples were absorbing water droplets and gelatin cylinders suspended in oil. They were irradiated with 6-ns-long pulses from an optical parametric oscillator. Photoacoustic cavitation was observed near the center of the absorbers, even if the estimated temperature caused by absorption of the laser pulse did not exceed the boiling point. The experimental findings are supported by theoretical simulations that reveal strong tensile stress in the interior of the absorbers, near the center of symmetry. Tensile stress amplitudes depend on the shape of the absorber, the laser pulse duration, and the ratio of absorber size to optical absorption length. The photoacoustic damage mechanism has implications for the interaction of ns and sub-nslaser pulses with pigmented structures in biological tissue.