Molecular signatures in femtosecond laser-induced organic plasmas. Comparison with nanosecond laser ablation

J. Serrano, J. Moros, J.J. Laserna. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2016, 18, 2398 – 2408


During the last few years, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) has evolved significantly in the molecular sensing area through the optical monitoring of emissions from organic plasmas. Large efforts have been made to study the formation pathways of diatomic radicals as well as their connections with the bonding framework of molecular solids. Together with the structural and chemical–physical properties of molecules, laser ablation parameters seem to be closely tied to the observed spectral signatures. This research focuses on evaluating the impact of laser pulse duration on the production of diatomic species that populate plasmas of organic materials. Differences in relative intensities of spectral signatures from the plasmas of several organic molecules induced in femtosecond (fs) and nanosecond (ns) ablation regimes have been studied. Beyond the abundance and origin of diatomic radicals that seed the plasma, findings reveal the crucial role of the ablation regime in the breakage pattern of the molecule. The laser pulse duration dictates the fragments and atoms resulting from the vaporized molecules, promoting some formation routes at the expense of other paths. The larger amount of fragments formed by fs pulses advocates a direct release of native bonds and a subsequent seeding of the plasma with diatomic species. In contrast, in the ns ablation regime, the atomic recombinations and single displacement processes dominate the contribution to diatomic radicals, as long as atomization of molecules prevails over their progressive decomposition. Consequently, fs-LIBS better reflects correlations between strengths of emissions from diatomic species and molecular structure as compared to ns-LIBS. These new results entail a further step towards the specificity in the analysis of molecular solids by fs-LIBS.

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