Applied Physics A

, Volume 114, Issue 1, pp 11–32 | Cite as

Microscopic mechanisms of laser spallation and ablation of metal targets from large-scale molecular dynamics simulations

  • Chengping Wu
  • Leonid V. ZhigileiEmail author
Invited paper


The microscopic mechanisms of femtosecond laser ablation of an Al target are investigated in large-scale massively parallel atomistic simulations performed with a computational model combining classical molecular dynamics technique with a continuum description of the laser excitation and subsequent relaxation of conduction band electrons. The relatively large lateral size of the computational systems used in the simulations enables a detailed analysis of the evolution of multiple voids generated in a sub-surface region of the irradiated target in the spallation regime, when the material ejection is driven by the relaxation of laser-induced stresses. The nucleation, growth, and coalescence of voids take place within a broad (\(\sim \)100 nm) region of the target, leading to the formation of a transient foamy structure of interconnected liquid regions and eventual separation (or spallation) of a thin liquid layer from the bulk of the target. The thickness of the spalled layer is decreasing from the maximum of \(\sim \)50 nm while the temperature and ejection velocity are increasing with increasing fluence. At a fluence of \(\sim \)2.5 times the spallation threshold, the top part of the target reaches the conditions for an explosive decomposition into vapor and small clusters/droplets, marking the transition to the phase explosion regime of laser ablation. This transition is signified by a change in the composition of the ablation plume from large liquid droplets to a mixture of vapor-phase atoms and clusters/droplets of different sizes. The clusters of different sizes are spatially segregated in the expanding ablation plume, where small/medium size clusters present in the middle of the plume are followed by slower (velocities of less than 3 km/s) large droplets consisting of more than 10,000 atoms. The similarity of some of the characteristics of laser ablation of Al targets (e.g., evolution of voids in the spallation regime and cluster size distributions in the phase explosion regime) to the ones observed in earlier simulations performed for different target materials points to the common mechanical and thermodynamic origins of the underlying processes.


Cluster Size Distribution Irradiate Target Ablation Plume Phase Explosion Explosive Decomposition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Financial support for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Grants DMR-0907247 and CMMI-1301298, Electro Scientific Industries, Inc., and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research through Grant FA9550-10-1-0541. Computational support was provided by the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (projects MAT048) and NSF through the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (project TG-DMR110090).


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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