We report on the thermal stability of both structural and optical micromodifications created by ultrafast laser written filaments in sapphire crystals. By using the Cr3+ traces as optical probes, we have concluded that the filaments are constituted by both reversible and nonreversible defects with very different spatial locations. The strain field measured from the analysis of R lines has been found to be erased at the same time when the reversible centers are recombined (1100°C). This fact seems to indicate that these defects act as pinning centers for the induced stress. Furthermore, we have found that the waveguide generated in the proximity of the filament disappear for annealing temperatures above 1100°C. This clearly supports the assumption that waveguiding is produced by the strain stress induced refractive index increment based on the dominant electronic polarizability enhancement.

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