Reconnection and merging of positive streamers in air

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Pictures show that streamer or sprite discharge channels emerging from the same electrode sometimes seem to reconnect or merge though their heads carry electric charge of the same polarity; one might therefore suspect that reconnections are an artefact of the two-dimensional projection in the pictures. Here we use stereo photography to investigate the full three-dimensional structure of such events. We analyse reconnection, possibly an electrostatic effect in which a late thin streamer reconnects to an earlier thick streamer channel, and merging, a suggested photoionization effect in which two simultaneously propagating streamer heads merge into one new streamer. We use four different anode geometries (one tip, two tips, two asymmetric protrusions in a plate and a wire), placed 40 mm above a flat cathode plate in ambient air. A positive high voltage pulse is applied to the anode, creating a positive corona discharge. This discharge is studied with a fast ICCD camera, in many cases combined with optics to enable stereoscopic imaging. We find that reconnections as defined above occur frequently. Merging on the other hand was only observed at a pressure of 25 mbar and a tip separation of 2 mm, i.e. for a reduced tip distance of pd = 50 ¿m bar. In this case the full width at half maximum of the streamer channel is more than 10 times as large as the tip separation. At higher pressures or with a wire anode, merging was not observed. © 2009 IOP Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)045201-1/9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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