Characterization of Particulates Accompanying Laser Ablation of NaNO3

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We present observations of submicrometer- to micrometer-sized particles generated by high-fluence ( 10 J/cm2) 248-nm laser ablation of single-crystal NaNO3 in vacuum and at atmospheric pres- sure. Small particles (50-200 nm in diameter) are ejected by hydrodynamic sputtering. Larger particles (1-20 mu m in diameter) are produced by cavitation and spallation in the melt. Many particles formed in air carry electric charge, with roughly equal numbers of positively and negatively charged particles. The particle composition is consistent with substantial nitrate decomposition. The implications of these observations with respect to laser-based chemical analysis are discussed.
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