Several ultrahard materials and coatings of definite interest for tribological applications were tested with respect to their response when irradiated with fs laser pulses. Results on cemented tungsten carbide and on titanium carbonitride are reported for the first time and compared with outcomes of investigations on diamond and titanium nitride. The experiments were carried out in air, in a regime of 5–8 J/cm2 fluences, using the beam of a commercial Ti:sapphire laser. The changes induced in the surface morphology were analysed with a Nomarski optical microscope, and with SEM and AFM techniques. From the experimental data and from the calculated incident energy density distributions, the damage and ablation threshold values were determined. As expected, the diamond showed the highest threshold, while the cemented tungsten carbide exhibited typical values for metallic surfaces. The ablation rates determined (under the above-mentioned experimental conditions) were in the range 0.1–0.2 μm per pulse for all the materials investigated.
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