Growth of ultrathin films, deposited by laser ablation, crucially depends on the energy of the ablated species. Therefore, a time-of-flight (TOF) spectrometer has been constructed and measurements have been carried out in order to determine the energy distribution of laser-ablated Fe and Pt atoms and ions in the plasma created by nanosecond pulses of a frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser. The experiments have been performed in ultrahigh vacuum at relatively low laser power. For measuring the spectra of the neutrals, a cross-beam electron source for post-ionization and electric as well as magnetic fields for repelling the ions are employed. Nevertheless, measurements of neutral particles are restricted to low plasma densities due to electrostatic shielding within the plasma, leading to an inefficient deflection of charged particles by electrostatic and magnetic fields. Test measurements have been performed by utilizing the TOF spectrometer as a pressure gauge and also by chopping the electron beam, running the TOF spectrometer as a residual gas mass spectrometer. The spectra of the laser ablated plasmas have shown plasma conditions with a Debye length of approximately 10-4 m, densities of 1015...1016 m-3 and ion energies up to 150 eV. Neutral spectra have shown an unexpectedly low fraction of neutrals (10-3...10-4) and hyperthermal energies up to several 10 eV, possibly contributed by recombination of ions and electrons in the plasma. Even though gas spectra had demonstrated the expected sensitivity of the TOF spectrometer for low-energy neutrals, no thermally evaporated neutral atoms could be found.
Corresponding author: M. Schmid (schmid).
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