The formation of melt and its spread in materials is the focus of many high temperature processes, for example, in laser welding and cutting. Surface active elements alter the surface tension gradient and therefore influence melt penetration depth and pool width. This study describes the application of direct laser interference patterning (DLIP) for structuring steel surfaces with diverse contents of the surface active element sulphur, which affects the melt convection pattern and the pool shape during the process. The laser fluence used is varied to analyse the different topographic features that can be produced depending on the absorbed laser intensity and the sulphur concentration. The results show that single peak geometries can be produced on substrates with sulphur contents lower than 300 ppm, while structures with split peaks form on higher sulphur content steels. The peak formation is explained using related conceptions of thermocapillary convection in weld pools. Numerical simulations based on a smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) model are employed to further investigate the influence of the sulphur content in steel on the melt pool convection during nanosecond single-pulsed DLIP.
Keywords: Marangoni convection; direct laser interference patterning; nanosecond pulse; periodic microstructure; smoothed particle hydrodynamics; sulphur content; surface tension gradient.