Relevant damage features associated with femtosecond pulse laser and swift-ion irradiations on LiNbO3 crystals are comparatively discussed. Experiments described in this paper include irradiations with repetitive femtosecond-laser pulses (800 nm, 130 fs) and irradiation with O, F, Si, and Cl ions at energies in the range of 0.2–1 MeV/amu where electronic stopping power is dominant. Data are semiquantitatively discussed by using a two-step phenomenological scheme. The first step corresponds to massive electronic excitation either by photons (primarily three-photon absorption) or ions (via ion-electron collisions) leading to a dense electron-hole plasma. The second step involves the relaxation of the stored excitation energy causing bond breaking and defect generation. It is described at a phenomenological level within a unified thermal spike scheme previously developed to account for damage by swift ions. A key common feature for the two irradiation sources is a well-defined intrinsic threshold in the deposited energy density Uth required to initiate observable damage in a pristine crystal: Uth1.3×1042×104J/cm3 for amorphization in the case of ions and Uth7×104J/cm3 for ablation in the case of laser pulses. The morphology of the heavily damaged regions (ion-induced tracks and laser-induced craters) generated above threshold and its evolution with the deposited energy are also comparatively discussed. The data show that damage in both types of experiments is cumulative and increases on successive irradiations. As a consequence, a certain incubation energy density has to be delivered either by the ions or laser photons in order to start observable damage under subthreshold conditions. The parallelism between the effects of laser pulses and ion impacts is well appreciated when they are described in terms of the ratio between the deposited energy density and the corresponding threshold value.

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