Competing Nonlinear Delocalization of Light for Laser Inscription Inside Silicon with a 2-mu m Picosecond Laser
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2019 authors. Published by the American Physical Society. The metrology of laser-induced damage usually finds a single transition from 0% to 100% damage probability when progressively increasing the laser energy in experiments. We observe that picosecond pulses at 2-m wavelength focused inside silicon provide a response that strongly deviates from this. Supported by nonlinear propagation simulations and energy flow analyses, we reveal an increased light delocalization for near critical power conditions. This leads to a nonmonotonic evolution of the peak delivered fluence as a function of the incoming pulse of the energy, a situation more complex than the clamping of the intensity until now observed in ultrafast regimes. Compared to femtosecond lasers, our measurements show that picosecond sources lead to reduced thresholds for three-dimensional (3D) writing inside silicon that is highly desirable. However, strong interplays between nonlinear effects persist and should not be ignored for the performance of future technological developments. We illustrate this aspect by carefully retrieving from the study the conditions for a demonstration of 3D data inscription inside a silicon wafer.