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The laser acoustics group at the INL investigates the interaction of acoustic waves with material microstructure on length scales ranging from nanometers to millimeters. Above left: The potential of using picosecond surface acoustic waves, generated using a suboptical wavelength absorption grating, to modify confinement properties in quantum structures is being investigated. Above middle: A hybrid photothermal and photoacoustic microscope developed at INL is used to investigate thermal and elastic properties of interfaces (top- phase image of temperature field, bottom- interferometric image of surface acoustic waves). Above right: Full field image of elastic waves in paper using a laser ultrasonic camera developed at INL. Fourier transforms of individual frames provides an image of the elastic anisotropy.

Laser Based Materials Characterization

The laser-based materials characterization group uses pulsed lasers to generate acoustic waves (e.g. nanosecond and picosecond laser ultrasonics) and thermal waves in materials. These waves are either detected interferometrically (Sagnac, Fabry Perot, Michelson, photorefractive) or by sensing small changes in reflectivity due to variations in strain or temperature. By relating the detected acoustic/thermal disturbance to mathematical models concerning acoustic/thermal wave generation and propagation, the research can determine the thermal, elastic, optical and electron properties of materials.

On the small end of the spectrum, the work of the laser-based materials characterization group includes studies of phonon focusing of gigahertz surface acoustic waves in elastically anisotropic materials, electron phonon coupling in polar semiconductors, generation and detection of picosecond surface acoustic waves using nanolithographic absorption masks, thermal properties of thin actinide films, carrier transport properties of thermoelectric materials and simultaneous microscopy of thermal and elastic properties of thin films.

On the larger end of this spectrum, we are using this approach to study a variety of problems germane to the energy industry. These applications include the study of mechanical and thermal properties of corrosive films, the development of fatigue damage in high temperature environments, and a fundamental study of acoustic wave interaction with individual microstructural features such as grain boundaries and dislocation networks.

Capabilities/Facilities: Pulsed laser acoustic generation, interferometric detection (Sagnac, Fabry Perot, Michelson, photorefractive), picosecond acoustic facility, thermal wave imaging facility.

Scientific/Engineering Issues: Acoustic interaction with material microstructure, thin corrosive films and lithographic nanostructures. Investigation of thermal and acoustic properties of interfaces.

Materials: Thin metallic, oxide and semiconducting films, lithographic nanostructures, pure metals and alloys.

Staff: D.H. Hurley, J.B. Walter, D.L. Cottle, R. S. Schley, and S.J. Reese.

Recent Projects:

  • Elastic Wave Interaction with Grain Boundaries on a Microscopic Scale (DOE-BES)
  • In Situ Laser-Based Characterization of Fatigue Damage in High Temperature Environments (LDRD)
  • Phononic Crystals for Sensing (LDRD)


  • University of Delaware, Institute for Energy Conversion
  • Bechtel Bettis
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Agilent Technologies, Inc.
  • University of Hokkaido
  • Boston University

Recent Publications:

  • "Optical generation and spatially distinct interferometric detection of ultrahigh frequency surface acoustic waves," D. H. Hurley, Applied Physics Letters, 88, 191106 (2006).
  • "Scanning Ultrafast Sagnac Interferometry for Imaging Two-Dimensional Surface Wave Propagation," T. Tachizaki, T Muroya, O. Matsuda, Y. Sugawara, D.H. Hurley, O.B. Wright, Review of Scientific Instruments, 77, 43713 (2006).
  • "Time-Resolved Surface Acoustic Wave Propagation Across a Single Grain Boundary," D.H. Hurley, O.B. Wright, O. Matsuda, T. Suzuki, S. Tamura, Y. Sugawara, Physics Review B, 73, 125403 (2006).
  • "Effect of Surface Acoustic Waves on the Catalytic Decomposition of Ethanol Employing a Comb Transducer for Ultrasonic Generation," S. Reese, D.H. Hurley, H. Rollins, Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, 13, 283 (2006).
  • "Simultaneous Microscopy of Elastic and Thermal Anisotropy," D. H. Hurley and K. L. Telschow, Phys. Rev. B Briefs, 71, 241410, (2005).
  • "Apparatus for performing Remote Ultrasonic Measurements in High Nuclear Radiation Environments," Rob Schley, K.L. Telschow, D.L. Cottle and J.B. Walter, to be submitted to Reviews of Scientific Instruments (2005).
  • "Real-Time Measurement of Material Properties In Situ to a High Radiation Environment," K.L. Telschow, J.B. Walter, R.S. Schley, D.L. Cottle, submitted to Journal of Nuclear Materials (2005).
  • "Coherent Shear Phonon Generation and Detection with Ultrashort Optical Pulses," O. Matsuda, O.B. Wright, D.H. Hurley, V.E. Gusev, K. Shimizu, Physical Review Letters, 93, 95501 (2004).
  • "Line-Source Representation for Laser-Generated Ultrasound in an Elastic Transversely Isotropic Half-Space," D.H. Hurley, J.B. Spicer, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116, 2914 (2004).
  • "Laser-Generated Thermoelastic Acoustic Sources in Anisotropic Materials," D.H. Hurley, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 115, 2054, (2004). 
  • "Full-Field Imaging Of GHz Film Bulk Acoustic Resonator Motion," K. L. Telschow, V. A. Deason, D. L. Cottle, and J. D. Larson III, IEEE_Trans. Ultrason., Ferroelect., Freq. Contr., 50(10), 1279-1285 (2003).
  • "Probing Acoustic Nonlinearity on Lengths Scales Comparable to Material Grain Dimensions," D. H. Hurley and K. L. Telschow, Ultrasonics 40, 617-620 (2002).
  • "Containerless Photothermal Spectroscopy Using Photorefractive Interferometric Detection," R. S. Schley, K. L. Telschow, Optical Engineering, 41(7), 1688-1695 (2002).
  • "Picosecond Surface Acoustic Waves Using a Suboptical Wavelength Absorption Grating," D. H. Hurley and K. L. Telschow, Phys. Rev. B 66, 153301-1 (2002).
  • "Imaging Anisotropic Elastic Properties Of An Orthotropic Paper Sheet Using Photorefractive Dynamic Holography," K. L. Telschow and V. A. Deason, Ultrasonics 40, 1025-1035 (2002).
  • "Photorefractive Interferometers for Ultrasonic Measurements on Paper," E. F. Lafond, P. H. Brodeur, J. P. Gerhardstein, C. C. Habeger, J. H. Jong, and K. L. Telschow, Ultrasonics 40, 1019-1023 (2002).
  • "Mathematical Modeling of Laser Ablation in Liquids with Application to Laser Ultrasonics," R. J. Conant, K. L. Telschow and J. B. Walter, Ultrasonics 40, 1067-1077 (2002).
  • "Off-Axis Propagation of Ultrasonic Guided Waves in Thin Orthotropic Layers: Theoretical Analysis and Dynamic Holographic Imaging Measurement," O. M. Mukdadi, S. K. Datta, K. L. Telschow, V. A. Deason, IEEE_Trans. Ultrason., Ferroelect., Freq. Contr., 48(6) 1581-1593 (2001).
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