Shooting Droplets with Lasers

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Last week we saw what happens when a solid projectile hits a water droplet; today’s video shows the impact of a laser pulse on a droplet. Several things happen here, but at very different speeds. When the laser impacts, it vaporizes part of the droplet within nanoseconds. A shock wave spreads from the point of impact and a cloud of mist sprays out. This also generates pressure on the impact face of the droplet, but it takes milliseconds–millions of nanoseconds–for the droplet to start moving and deforming. The subsequent explosion of the drop depends both on the laser energy and focus, which determine the size of the impulse imparted to the droplet. The motivation for the work is extreme ultraviolet lithography–a technique used for manufacturing next-generation semiconductor integrated circuits–which uses lasers to vaporize microscopic droplets during the manufacturing process. (Video credit: A. Klein et al.)

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