The objective of this research project is to study the physical interactions between a femtosecond near-nondiffracting laser beam and advanced materials such as solar thin films and reveal the ablation mechanisms in microstructuring of such materials. Research approaches will include both experimental investigation and numerical modeling. A comprehensive experimental study will be conducted to assess the effects of laser beam shaping and operating parameters on process robustness, efficiency and cut quality. A laser ablation model will be developed to elucidate the basic ablation mechanisms and to optimize process conditions.
The successful completion of this work will generate new fundamental knowledge in the area of femtosecond laser interaction with advanced materials. The new knowledge will serve as the scientific foundation based on which new femtosecond laser micromachining processes can be developed. The proposed microstructuring process has applications in numerous areas including scribing of solar cells, micromachining of microelectromechanical systems and light-emitting diodes, microdrilling in automotive and aerospace industry, surface texturing for tribological components, etc. In the solar industry, for example, a significant increase in conversion efficiency for thin film solar panels will be achieved using the proposed scribing process. Together with the potential of significantly reducing cost through roll-to-roll mass production this project will contribute to the nation?s clean energy future free of air pollution, hazardous waste, and global warming. Besides impacts on manufacturing industry, fascinating education materials and activities will be developed to train a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students and to educate K-12 students and the general public.