Application of femtosecond lasers is widely utilized in micromachining transparent materials. We have successfully altered the surface hardness of various commercial silicate glasses using a high-intensity femtosecond pulse laser. The femtosecond laser generates pulse energy of 500 nJ with a central wavelength of 800 nm. Using a peak power of 2.2 W and a repetition rate of 5.1 MHz, we observed an 18–20% increase surface hardness in glasses with low-modifier content and 16.6% decrease in glasses with high-modifier content. All laser exposed glasses show no detectable induced-crystallization or surface ablation. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy results of our samples confirmed that the laser irradiation had no detectable effect on surface chemistry. X-ray reflectometry data showed the change in hardness was attributed to a thin layer with modified density. Experimental results suggest the strengthening mechanism derives from local structural transformation of interatomic bond distances and angles.
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Locker, S., Sundaram, S.K. Ultrafast modification of oxide glass surface hardness. Appl. Phys. B 125, 225 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00340-019-7334-5