A method has been developed for inducing controlled microstructural evolution in thin films patterned into lines, using scanned laser annealing (SLA). Experimental studies show at least three distinct types of microstructures resulting from SLA, depending on the scan rate and laser power. Starting with a polygranular initial microstructure, scanned laser annealing leads to either a large-grained polygranular structure, a bamboo structure, or an agglomerated structure. Microstructural evolution induced by SLA was found to lead to different evolution than conventional annealing, as well as to produce unique large-grained “bamboo” structures. Simulations of SLA further suggest the possibility of producing near-single crystal microstructures under properly controlled conditions. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.