Ultra-fast pulsed microwave plasma breakdown : evidence of various ignition modes

E.A.D. Carbone, S. Nijdam

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24 Citations (Scopus)


In this communication, we investigate the ignition of pulsed microwave plasmas in a narrow dielectric tube with an electrodeless configuration. The plasma is generated using a surfatron cavity. The power is modulated as a square wave with a rise-time of 30 ns at variable frequencies from 100 Hz up to 5 MHz. The ignition and plasma propagation inside the 3mm radius quartz tube are imaged spatially and resolved with nanosecond time resolution using an iCCD camera. The plasma is found to propagate in the form of a front moving from the launcher to theend of the plasma column with the microwave power being gradually absorbed behind it. The velocity of the plasma front decreases while the plasma goes towards a steady state. The ionization front is found to be strongly non-uniform and various structures as a function of the pulse repetition frequency (i.e. power-off time) are shown in the axial and radial directions. At low frequencies, finger-like structures are found. The plasma becomes more hollow at smaller power-off times. At higher repetition frequencies (kHz regime), a critical repetition frequency is found for which the plasma light intensity sharply increases at the head of the propagation front, taking a shape resembling a plasma bullet. This critical frequency depends on the pressure and power. For even higher frequencies, the bullet shape disappears and plasma volume ignition from the launcher to the end of the plasma column is observed. These results bring a new insight into the ignition mechanisms of pulsed microwave plasmas inside dielectric tubes. A wide variety of effects are found which seem to mostly depend on the background ionization degree. Moreover, the results show that only a 3D time-dependent model can, in general, correctly describe the ignition of a pulsed microwave discharge.
Original languageEnglish
Article number012001
Pages (from-to)012001-1/6
Number of pages6
JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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