Dynamics of the plume formation and parameters of the ejected clusters in short-pulse laser ablation
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The dynamics of the early stages of the ablation plume formation and the mechanisms of cluster ejection are investigated in large-scale molecular dynamics simulations. The cluster composition of the ablation plume has a strong dependence on the irradiation conditions and is defined by the interplay of a number of processes during the ablation plume evolution. At sufficiently high laser fluences, the phase explosion of the overheated material leads to the formation of a foamy transient structure of interconnected liquid regions that subsequently decomposes into a mixture of liquid droplets, gas-phase molecules, and small clusters. The ejection of the largest droplets is attributed to the hydrodynamic motion in the vicinity of the melted surface, especially active in the regime of stress confinement. Spatially resolved analysis of the dynamics of the plume formation reveals the effect of segregation of the clusters of different sizes in the expanding plume. A relatively low density of small/medium clusters is observed in the region adjacent to the surface, where large clusters are being formed. Medium-size clusters dominate in the middle of the plume and only small clusters and monomers are observed near the front of the expanding plume. Despite being ejected from deeper under the surface, the larger clusters in the plume have substantially higher internal temperatures as compared to the smaller clusters. The cluster-size distributions can be relatively well described by a power law Y(N)∼N-τ with exponents different for small, up to ∼15 molecules, and large clusters. The decay is much slower in the high-mass region of the distribution.
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