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Laser-material interactions involve the coupling of optical energy into a material, resulting in vaporization; ejection of atoms, ions, molecular species, and fragments: shock waves; plasma initiation and expansion; and a hybrid of these and other processes. Some of these processes are the basis of a large number of useful applications. Among the most common applications involving laser-material interaction are micromachining, fabrication of new materials, pulse laser deposition, chemical analysis (quantitative and qualitative), etc.

Several forms of spectroscopy techniques use laser as a sampling tool or excitation source. The main advantages that some of these spectroscopy techniques offers is that they are capable of in situ, non-destructive (is some cases), extremely fast analysis of unknown material composition.

Laser-based technologies and techniques provide a means of devising new advanced materials for a variety of applications—from high-temperature superconductors to efficient photovoltaic cells, advanced materials for batteries, and nanostructured materials (nanowires and nanolasers).

Laser-material interaction also provides the basis for laser ultrasonic sensors, a non-contact, non-destructive method of testing materials with applications in industrial quality control.