Short-Pulse Laser Ablation of Energetic Materials for Threat Object Interrogation

Nan Shen | 18-FS-039


We tested the feasibility of pulsed laser ablation of high explosives without deflagration to produce deep, high-aspect-ratio channels for spectroscopic measurements inside an object. Both femtosecond and picosecond lasers were used to cut and drill through HE pellets. We used microscopy and spectroscopy techniques to characterize the physical and chemical state of the material in the vicinity of laser irradiation.

Our research provided a fundamental physical understanding and a proof-of-principle demonstration of safe ablation of HE using short-pulse lasers. Consequently, our results could support further development of capabilities with low size, weight, and power for threat characterization using laser drilling and diagnostics technologies.

Impact on Mission

This feasibility study supports Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's core competencies in laser and optical science and technology as well as HE physics, chemistry, and materials science by advancing our understanding of laser material interaction. Our results support the Laboratory's national security mission and NNSA's goals by advancing scientific and technical activities for assessment of threat objects containing high explosives (HE). Our work has attracted partners in programmatic projects from within Livermore and at another national lab.