Analytical Chemistry

Combining Anisotropic Etching and PDMS Casting for Three-Dimensional Analysis of Laser Ablation Processes

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State-of-the-art laser ablation (LA) depth-profiling techniques (e.g. LA-ICP-MS, LIBS, and LIMS) allow for chemical composition analysis of solid materials with high spatial resolution at micro- and nanometer levels. Accurate determination of LA-volume is essential to correlate the recorded chemical information to the specific location inside the sample. In this contribution, we demonstrate two novel approaches towards a better quantitative analysis of LA craters with dimensions at micrometer level formed by femtosecond-LA processes on single-crystalline Si(100) and polycrystalline Cu model substrates. For our parametric crater evolution studies, both the number of applied laser shots and the pulse energy were systematically varied, thus yielding 2D matrices of LA craters which vary in depth, diameter, and crater volume. To access the 3D structure of LA craters formed on Si(100), we applied a combination of standard lithographic and deep reactive-ion etching (DRIE) techniques followed by a HR-SEM inspection of the previously formed crater cross sections. As DRIE is not applicable for other material classes such as metals, an alternative and more versatile preparation technique was developed and applied to the LA craters formed on the Cu substrate. After the initial LA treatment, the Cu surface was subjected to a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) casting process yielding a mold being a full 3D replica of the LA craters, which was then analyzed by HR-SEM. Both approaches revealed cone-like shaped craters with depths ranging between 1 and 70 μm and showed a larger ablation depth of Cu that exceed the one of Si by a factor of about 3.