Laser ablation is the process of removing material from a solid (or occasionally liquid) surface by irradiating it with a laser beam. At low laser flux, the material is heated by the absorbed laser energy and evaporates or sublimates.
Finally, laser ablation can be used to transfer momentum to a surface, since the ablated material applies a pulse of high pressure to the surface underneath it as it expands. The effect is similar to hitting the surface with a hammer. This process is used in industry to work-harden metal surfaces, and is one damage mechanism for a laser weapon. It is also the basis of pulsed laser propulsion for spacecraft.
The laser ablation of electronic semiconductors and microprocessors is now being pioneered in the UK to keep electronic manufacturers' designs confidential. The main reason is that it greatly reduces the risk of copying infringements.
Laser ablation can be used on benign and malignant lesions in various organs, which is called laser-induced interstitial thermotherapy.