The femtosecond (fs) lasers display noticeable specificities compared with the nanosecond (ns) ones operating in the UV domain, and classically used for the pulsed-laser deposition (PLD) technique. The ultra-short laser pulses offer the feature of minimal thermal damage induced in the target material, and the very high intensities (1012-14 W/cm2) available with fs lasers are likely to allow the ablation of any kind of materials, even the wide band gap insulators.
The morphology, structure, composition and properties of the films obtained by fs PLD are studied according to the experimental growth conditions, the nature of the target material, and the dynamic expansion of plasma plume. In the case of ZnO, smooth, dense and nanocrystalline films (10 to 30 nm crystallites) can be epitaxially grown on adequate substrates (i.e. sapphire). On the contrary, BaTiO3 films are formed by the random stacking of aggregates (10 to 200 nm) leading to a non negligible surface roughness,. In addition, the chemical composition of fs PLD thin films of multicomponent compound (i.e. BaTiO3) is not homogeneous, an enrichment in the lighter element being observed in the central part of the film. These properties are related to the phenomena taking place during the various steps of the process (laser-matter interaction, plasma formation, expansion) through time resolved emission spectroscopy and plume optical imaging measurements.