Picosecond laser ablation of poly-L-lactide: Effect of crystallinity on the material response
The picosecond laser ablation of poly-L-lactide (PLLA) as a function of laser fluence and degree of crystallinity was examined.
The ablation parameters and the surface modifications were analyzed under various irradiation conditions using laser wavelengths ranging from the ultraviolet through the visible. When processing the amorphous PLLA, both energy threshold and topography varied considerably depending on laser wavelength. Laser irradiation showed a reduction in the energy ablation threshold as the degree of crystallinity increased, probably related to photomechanical effects involved in laser ablation with ultra-short pulses and the lower stress accommodation behavior of semicrystalline polymers. In particular, cooperative chain motions are impeded by the higher degree of crystallinity, showing fragile mechanical behavior and lower energy dissipation. The experimental results on ablation rate versus laser energy showed that UV laser ablation on semicrystalline PLLA was more efficient than the visible ablation, i.e., it exhibits higher etch rates over a wide range of pulse energy conditions. These results were interpreted in terms of photo-thermal and photo-chemical response of polymers as a function of material micro-structure and incident laser wavelength. High quality micro-grooves were produced in amorphous PLLA, reveling the potential of ultra-fast laser processing technique in the field of micro-structuring biocompatible and biodegradable polymers for biomedical applications.