Laser Ultrasonic Thermoelastic/Ablation Generation with Laser Interferometric Detection in Graphite/Polymer Composites
Ultrasonic signals have been generated and detected in graphite/polymer composites by optical methods. A Doppler interferometric technique was used for detection. The output voltage of this type of interferometer is proportional to the surface velocity of a sample area which is illuminated by cw laser light. Ultrasonic signals were generated by thermoelastic and ablation processes which occur as a consequence of laser pulses incident on the opposite surface of the sample. The evolution of the magnitude and shape of the detected signals was measured as a function of the pulse energy of the generating laser. Low-energy laser pulses generated ultrasound without causing obvious surface damage. At higher energies surface damage was observable in post inspection but could also be detected by observing (through protective goggles) bright flashes near the illuminated area. The energy at which these processes first occur is qualitatively referred to as the ablation threshold. Changes in the observed waveform were evident at energies above the ablation threshold. The higher-energy waveforms were found to consist of a superposition of a thermoelastic component and an ablatic component, whose relative magnitudes changed with laser power. A delay in the initiation of the ablatic wave relative to the thermoelastic wave was observed to be of the order of 0.3 μs, consistent with observations in pure polymer.  Photoelectric detection measurements of the ablation plume also showed a clear threshold and a time scale for growth of the ablation products with a characteristic time scale on the order of 0.3 μs.