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J. Jelken, C. Henkel, and S. Santer
Formation of Half-Period Surface Relief Gratings in Azobenzene Containing Polymer Films
Appl. Phys. B 126 (2020) 149


    We study the peculiar response of photo-sensitive polymer films irradiated with a certain type of interference pattern where one interfering beam is S-polarized while the second one is P-polarized. The polymer film, although in a glassy state, deforms following the local polarization distribution of the incident light, and a surface relief grating (SRG) appears whose period is half the optical one. All other types of interference patterns result in the matching of both periods. The topographical response is triggered by the alignment of photo-responsive azobenzene containing polymer side chains orthogonal to the local electrical field, resulting in a bulk birefringence grating (BBG). We investigate the process of dual grating formation (SRG and BBG) in a polymer film utilizing a dedicated set-up that combines probe beam diffraction and atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements and permits acquiring in situ and in real time information about changes in local topography and birefringence. We find that the SRG maxima appear at the positions of linearly polarized light (tilted by 45 relative to the grating vector), causing the formation of the half-period topography. This permits to inscribe symmetric and asymmetric topography gratings with sub-wavelength period, while changing only slightly the polarization of one of the interfering beams. We demonstrate an easy generation of sawtooth profiles (blazed gratings) with adjustable shape. With these results we have taken a significant step in understanding the photo-induced deformation of azo-polymer films.

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