Femtosecond laser irradiation of Poly (methyl methacrylate) for refractive index modification and photochemical analysis

  • Anca Taranu

Student thesis: Phd


Abstract This thesis explores a new technique for investigating the photochemical mechanisms of femtosecond laser inscription of permanent photonic structures in Poly(methylmethacrylate) (PMMA). The refractive index (RI) structures were fabricated with a direct writing method without ablation, and analysed using a non-invasive method - namely: Raman mapping spectrometry. The writing conditions for the photonic structures under investigation are mainly represented by 800nm and 400nm wavelength with 44fs and 100fs pulse length and a low repetition rate in the kHz domain. The mass percentage of the induced monomer and end groups modification (MMA) as a measure of the modification of the ratio of C=C and C=O Raman transition varies linearly with the total fluence (total). The mass percentage of the induced monomer and end groups change is defined by the modification of normalised ratio of the Raman intensity of C=C bond (I(C=C)) and the Raman intensity of C=O bond (I(C=O)) which is denoted by I(C=C/C=O)n. The modification of this ratio is denoted by I (C=C/C=O)n and also by MMA. MMA varies linearly with total with a positive slope for both writing conditions due to the induced main chain scission and unzipping. If total increases by 1J/cm2, it is predicted an increase in MMA, by (1.550±0.11)x10-2 (cntsxcm2)/J, for the near infrared (NIR) irradiated samples that is higher than the increase of MMA for the ultraviolet (UV) irradiated sample that show a value of (1.9200.274)x10-3 ( (cntsxcm2)/J). The same trend was found for the variation of MMA with diffraction efficiency () for NIR irradiated structures and also for UV irradiated structures. If  increases by 1cnt, it is predicted that there will be an increase in MMA, by (4.233±0.383) cnts for NIR irradiated samples that is lower than the increase of MMA for the UV irradiated sample that shows a value of (14.3922.477) cnts. The variation of MMA with  is higher for UV irradiated samples than for NIR irradiated samples, and this indicates that the nonlinear absorption of two photons produces a larger percentage of the monomer and end groups than the nonlinear absorption of three photons. Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC), which is a destructive analytical method, was applied only for the investigation of the time dependent behaviour of the molecular weight of the photonics structures which were written with the parallel writing technique using 775nm wavelength and 160fs pulse length that shows an increase of 66 in  after seven days from the laser irradiation. Twenty-four hours after laser irradiation, the GPC results show that the weighted average molecular weight (Mw) of the exposed sample of 28,610,000 Daltons is about thirty times higher than the MW of the unexposed sample of 963,425 Daltons. This is an indication of the photo-cross-linking reaction. As a result of this reaction, the polymer chains link together through intermolecular forces to form a 3D network which produces an increase of molecular weight. It was also observed that there was a further decrease of molecular weight after three days to 437,441 Daltons due to main chain scission and unzipping. The main chain scission is actually the breaking of C-C bonds between structural units and the formation of radicals which further produce the monomer and end groups (MMA) through the unzipping reaction which leads to a decrease of the molecular weight. The main chain scission occurred with the greatest efficiency after three days following the end of irradiation, when the number of the main chain scissions (Ns) reached the maximum value of 1.193. An increase of molecular weight signifies an increase of the refractive index since the optical density has increased. The mechanical properties of PMMA optical fibres (e.g., Young's modulus) and of bulk PMMA (e.g., glass transition temperature) were investigated using Dynamical Mechanical Analysis (DMA) tests (e.g., stress-strain test and temperature ramp/frequ
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPatricia Scully (Supervisor)


  • femtosecond irradiated PMMA, subusurface refractive index structures
  • confocal Raman spectroscopy, refractive index structures

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