Ultrafast laser-induced periodic surface subwavelength ripples, categorized based on the ripple period into near-subwavelength ripples (NSRs) and deep-subwavelength ripples (DSRs), are increasingly found in the variety of materials such as metals, semiconductors and dielectrics. The fabrication of hierarchical periodic NSRs and DSRs on the same laser-irradiated area is still a challenge since the connection between the two remains a puzzle. Here we present an experimental study of linearly polarized picosecond laser-induced hierarchical periodic NSRs and DSRs on stainless-steel surfaces. While experiencing peak power density higher than a threshold value of 91.9 GW/cm2
, in the laser-scanned area appear the hierarchical periodic NSRs and DSRs (in particular, the DSRs are vertically located in the valley of parallel NSRs). A large area of the uniformly hierarchical periodic NSRs and DSRs, with the spatial periods 356 ± 17 nm and 58 ± 15 nm, respectively, is fabricated by a set of optimized laser-scanning parameters. A qualitative explanation based on the surface plasmon polariton (SPP) modulated periodic coulomb explosion is proposed for unified interpretation of the formation mechanism of hierarchical periodic NSRs and DSRs, which includes lattice orientation of grains as a factor at low peak power density, so that the initial DSRs formed have a clear conformance with the metallic grains.
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