APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS 91, 224107 共2007兲

Nondestructive evaluation of microcracks by laser-induced focused
ultrasound
Victor V. Kozhushko and Peter Hessa兲
Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

共Received 18 September 2007; accepted 8 November 2007; published online 29 November 2007兲
Photoacoustic transformation of laser pulses at a concave stainless steel surface immersed in water
delivered short, focused, ultrasonic pressure pulses to the free surface of a sample placed in the focal
region. The probe-beam-deflection method was employed to detect the resulting transient surface
slope of the surface distortions in the frequency range 艋100 MHz. Absolute calibration of the setup
indicates strains of ⬃10−3. Clear evidence for characteristic changes in the transient waveforms was
observed near single cracks at the surface. Therefore, this novel method is suitable for
nondestructive evaluation and characterization of bulk and surface defects. © 2007 American
Institute of Physics. 关DOI: 10.1063/1.2819088兴
Laser-induced ultrasound carries information on the nature and intrinsic features of interaction of radiation with
matter, and can be used for the characterization of optical,
thermophysical, and mechanical properties.1,2 For instance,
laser-based optoacoustic or photoacoustic tomography aims
at the reconstruction of the spatial distribution of optical absorption in biological tissue and has been widely developed
in the last decade.3 The interrelation between optical absorption, heat diffusion, and acoustic effects is the basis of different modes of ultrasonic excitation and conversion.4 For
strongly absorbing materials, the frequency bandwidth of the
launched photoacoustic pulses approaches the spectrum of
the intensity envelope of the laser pulse. The induced acoustic pulses possess a smooth transient shape that makes them
promising for high-resolution medical imaging systems5 and
nondestructive evaluation 共NDE兲 of materials. While scattering of surface acoustic waves 共SAWs兲 and their mode conversion into bulk waves by surface-breaking cracks have
been studied extensively over recent decades,6 the present
approach uses an externally generated focused ultrasonic
pulse transmitted through water to study such cracks.
This letter considers the photoacoustic transformation of
8 ns laser pulses at a metal-liquid interface. The spectrum of
the pressure pulse propagating into the liquid can be described by P共␻兲 = KI0L共␻兲, where K is a transfer function
depending on the materials, I0 is the intensity of the laser
pulse, and L共␻兲 is the spectrum of its intensity envelope.1,4
Since the condition of a rigid acoustic border is fulfilled, the
spectrum of the initially excited pressure pulse covers the
range of 0.1– 100 MHz. For most materials, the power density of laser radiation should be ⬍20 MW/ cm2 to avoid ablation. Taking into account the order of magnitude of the
transfer function of ⬃1 Pa W−1 cm2, it is possible to launch
pressure pulses with an amplitude reaching hundreds of bars
and smooth transient profiles approaching the intensity envelope of the laser pulse. The transformation on a concave
surface is suggested to deliver focused pressure pulses propagating through a liquid into the sample. By the focusing
method applied, diffraction losses are reduced and the pronounced compression phase of the initially generated pressure pulse is conserved. This opens new possibilities in the
a兲

Electronic mail: peter.hess@urz.uni-heidelberg.de.

application of laser ultrasonics to important tasks of NDE
and characterization of defects.
Propagation of the powerful wideband ultrasonic pulses
involves nonlinear response in the liquid, which enriches the
high-frequency part of their spectrum. This produces a compression pulse with a steeply rising front. On the other hand,
absorption in liquids is proportional to the frequency
squared. It is important to keep in mind that intense ultrasound pulses may induce cavitation that is undesirable in
NDE analysis. In a theoretical treatment of these processes,
the efficiency of ultrasound excitation, acoustic impedances,
attenuation, and velocity of ultrasound must be taken into
consideration.
In the present experiments, water was used because it is
a versatile liquid that has a moderate value of the transfer
function in comparison with, for example, acetone or ethanol, owing to its much smaller thermal expansion
coefficient.7 Since nonlinear response is involved in the procedure, linear solutions provide a rough description only.
One of the main advantages of water is its low ultrasound
attenuation of 2.1⫻ 10−14 cm−1 Hz−2.
To realize the concept of external generation of focused
pressure pulses with a shocklike front, a spherical concave
stainless steel mirror with 14 mm radius was used, as shown
in Fig. 1. The 1.064 ␮m radiation of a Nd:YAG 共yttrium

FIG. 1. Scheme of the experimental arrangement with photoacoustic pulse
excitation at the steel mirror, the focused acoustic pulse, and the probebeam-deflection setup to measure the surface slope.

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© 2007 American Institute of Physics
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The most pronounced changes were seen near the crack center 共see the six points A–F in Fig.8⫻ 103 m / s in glasses. the tilt and depth of the crack are mainly responsible for the shielding effects and a dead zone is expected very close to the crack for an approach of the probe laser from the large-angle side. The phase velocities of the longitudinal and shear waves determine the first and second critical angles of mode conversion at the liquid-solid interface of the sample. 4共a兲. This decrease is caused by the conical form of the ultrasonic pulse. the conversion of a longitudinal wave to a transverse mode dominates. using the 532 nm radiation of a cw Nd:YAG laser with 50 mW power that was sharply focused onto the free sample surface with an estimated spot size of ⬃5 ␮m. The transient profile registered by the PBD method exhibits a pronounced unipolar shape with a steeply rising front of 5 ns duration.8 was used in the experiments. 224107 共2007兲 FIG. The bandwidth of the PBD setup covered the frequency range of 5 – 500 MHz.6 ␮s for convenience. only the relative translation of the sample was considered. 2. The inset of Fig. An absolute calibration of the experiments was performed separately by means of nonlinear SAW pulses.224107-2 V. Phys. The conversion of the initial pressure pulse at the water-glass interface produces two convergence zones in the solid.186. providing an estimate of the strain generated at the surface.1– 100 MHz.8 A glass plate of 1 mm thickness with an isolated microcrack. The crack line visible at the surface was oriented along the plane of incidence of the probe laser. An effect of the crack was observed in a surface region of ⬃100⫻ 100 ␮m2. counterpropagating Downloaded 29 Dec 2007 to 147. while the second critical angle is ⬃25°. Calibration yielded an estimated strain of ⬃10−3 共“Mach number”兲 at the free surface. Lett. Hess FIG. Kozhushko and P. 3兲. The inset displays the spectral dependencies of the laser pulse envelope. 1兲. 3. In agreement with its surface extension. The maximal signal was obtained when the convergence point of the ultrasonic pulse was near to the free sample surface. The surface slope or shear strain at the distorted sample surface was measured by the probe-beam-deflection 共PBD兲 method. 4共a兲–4共c兲. the magnitude of the induced pressure change can be estimated as tens of bars. Changes of the transient profiles along one of the lines normal to the crack are presented in Fig. Redistribution subject to AIP license or copyright. and water attenuation. The picture combines several optical microscope images of phase differences with varying depths of the focal plane. see http://apl. while the geometrical center of the concave mirror surface was situated above the free surface 共see Fig. The waveforms recorded by PBD are marked by the same letters in Fig. as illustrated in Fig. the detected signal. parallel and normal to the crack extension. Probe-beam-deflection signal recorded on the free surface of the glass plate far from the crack. The measurements were carried out at points of a twodimensional grid with steps of 20 ␮m in an area of 200 ⫻ 200 ␮m2. the efficiency of ul- Appl. changes in the measured profile were found at a distance 100 ␮m parallel to the crack line.142. Thus. for the linear case and a pulse with plane wave front. 4. produced by nonlinear SAWs. The second and third plots show signals that were recorded at the small-angle side of the tilted crack.jsp . Composition of the phase differences of optical images with different depths of the focal plane. 2. All wave vectors of the ultrasonic beam are initially directed to the geometrical center of curvature of the steel surface. according to the transverse velocity of 3. The observed time delay of ⬃7.org/apl/copyright. 1. the first critical angle is ⬃15°. detected signal. 3.8 The goal of these measurements is the evaluation of the crack position and size by translation of the specimen and observation of the resulting changes in the transient surface slope. The features of the particular investigated crack can be seen in Fig. 4. 2 shows the spectra of the laser pulse envelope. The mirror axis was deliberately tilted by 15°. Figure 4共a兲 shows the slowly decreasing signal amplitude for probe-beam spots approaching the crack. and the influence of water attenuation. A typical transient shape of the signal detected far from a crack is presented in Fig. Measured profiles are presented in Figs.6 ␮s corresponds to the passage of the ultrasonic pulse through ⬃10 mm water and the 1 mm thick glass plate. Note that the crack plane was tilted in the bulk. V. Certainly. as shown in the inset of Fig. The power density at the metal surface was ⬃5 MW/ cm2. In such a situation.5⫻ 103 m / s.54. The position and orientation of the steel mirror was adjusted by means of translation and rotation to achieve the maximum probe signal far from the crack. aluminum garnet兲 laser with pulse duration of 8 ns and 10 Hz repetition rate was reduced by neutral filters to ⬃60 mJ and extended by a plane concave lens. As the PBD method is sensitive to the surface slope. corresponding to a stress magnitude of hundreds of bars at the glass surface. Since no reference point was fixed at the surface.aip. As the velocity of longitudinal waves is about 5. Points and letters indicate the locations of the optical spot of PBD analysis. The transient profiles were averaged to 100 times at each point. The next small peaks are reverberations of the ultrasonic pulse. The influence of the crack was noticeable in both directions. trasound generation is ⬃1 Pa W−1 cm2 in the frequency range of 0. which is partly shielded by the crack. As mentioned before. where the time scale is shifted to 7. 91. This configuration provided a higher sensitivity of the PBD signal to changes of the surface slope caused by the bulk discontinuity.

von Gutfeld and H. Stern 共Academic. Gusev and A. J. and M. and R. Instrum.54. Phys. 8 G. N. Podymova. 2001兲. The influence of a nearby crack can be clearly detected with the PBD method. Redistribution subject to AIP license or copyright. E. Phys. F. Lett.142. Appl. Jian. Guo. P. A. 共b兲 detection at points C and D at the small-angle side of the crack. A. Bass. and A. a novel method for the application of laser-excited focused ultrasonic pulses in NDE is suggested. 79. and 共c兲 detection at points E and F at the small-angle side of crack. Lomonosov. Consequently. 617 共1979兲. M. Savateeva. S. and P. Lomonosov. it may be used to examine silicon wafers. N. 6 X. such as bubbles and voids in the bulk. Note that ideal flat crack planes were assumed. Laser Optoacoustics 共AIP. Lehmann. San Diego. The time interval between the main peak and second peak grows with distance between probe spot and crack. Sci. Phys. The technique has the potential to detect different types of defects in solids. 77. 87. as shown in Fig. By photoacoustic conversion. For example. Xu and L. Mayer. 224107 共2007兲 V. Appl. These negative peaks belong to the part of the pulse that experienced double reflections. as shown in the inset. see http://apl. 4 A. edited by M. 548 共2001兲. B. M. Phys. Transient profiles measured along the line normal to the crack. A. Hess peak decreases with distance from the crack and finally becomes negative 关see Fig.aip. A. Appl. 3. Phys. 041101 共2006兲. Appl. 7 R. A. Phys. waves produce signals of opposite sign. a focused ultrasonic pulse with pronounced compression phase and 15 ns duration is launched. 4共c兲兴. 94. Levy. E. are converted into shear and longitudinal waves at the lower sample surface.224107-3 Appl. J. Vol. P.186. 2 A.jsp . Appl. H. where NDE is of high practical importance in quality control. 共a兲 Detection at points A and B at the large-angle side of the crack. and microcracks at the surface. Lett. Lett. and R. 2907 共2003兲.-H.-H. in Modern Acoustical Techniques for the Measurement of Mechanical Properties. They can be focused into a region of tens of micrometers with stresses of hundreds of bars at the upper free surface of the sample. 064906 共2007兲. The main advantage of this optical pump-probe scheme is its high spatial and temporal resolution. Karabutov. its tilt and depth. Dixon. These pulses with initial amplitudes of ⬎10 bar. Spisar. V. V. The time delay between first direct peak and reflected peak grows with distance from the crack. 2003 共2000兲. Reflections of the pressure pulse from the free surface or sidewall of the crack also change the phase of the pulse. 39. pp. Wang. 1993兲. namely. the second positive peaks in Fig. O’Donnell. V. Kozhushko and P. J. and P. Edwards. 101. 65–134. Oraevsky. Hess. Hess. Budd. In conclusion. Rev. E. 34.org/apl/copyright. The amplitude of the second Downloaded 29 Dec 2007 to 147. The time delay of the reflected peaks is a function of the specific crack geometry. 4. M. Gumbsch. Buma. Financial support of this work by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft 共DFG兲 is gratefully acknowledged. the first one from the free surface and the second one from the crack wall. 1 FIG. 4共b兲 correspond to a pulse reflected from the crack plane. incident at the water-sample interface. J. 3 M. 5 T. Karabutov. New York. 91.