Stress wave emission and cavitation bubble dynamics after optical breakdown in water and a tissue phantom with Nd: YAG laser pulses of 6 ns duration were investigated both experimentally and numerically to obtain a better understanding of the physical mechanisms involved in plasma-mediated laser surgery. Experimental tools were high-speed photography with 50 000 frames s-1, and acoustic measurements. The tissue phantom consisted of a transparent polyacrylamide (PAA) gel, the elastic properties of which can be controlled by modifying the water content. Breakdown in water produced a purely compressive stress wave. By contrast, in stiff PAA samples and for sufficiently large pulse energies, the compression wave was followed by an intense tensile wave, similar to the behaviour previously observed in cornea. The elastic/plastic response of the medium led to a significant decrease of the maximum size of the cavitation bubble and to a shortening of its oscillation period which was found to be related to the generation of the tensile stress wave upon breakdown. For increasing elastic modulus of the PAA, both the amplitudes of the bubble oscillation and of the stress wave emitted during bubble collapse decreased until the bubble oscillation was so strongly damped that no collapse stress wave was emitted. Numerical simulations were performed using a spherical model of bubble dynamics which includes the compressibility and elastic/plastic behaviour of the medium, viscosity, density and surface tension. The calculations revealed that consideration of the elastic/plastic behaviour of the medium surrounding the bubble is essential to describe the experimentally observed bipolar shape of the stress wave emitted upon optical breakdown. Water is a poor tissue model because the shape of the emitted stress waves and the bubble dynamics differ strongly for both materials. The mechanical properties of PAA were also found to be quite different from those of tissues. Experimental and numerical results provided evidence that the dynamic mechanical properties relevant for optical breakdown in PAA and tissue differ by as much as two orders of magnitude from the static values. The discovery of a tensile stress wave after optical breakdown in tissue-like media is of great importance for the assessment of collateral damage in laser surgery because biological tissues are much more susceptible to tensile stress than to compressive stress.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Biomedical Engineering