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Vacuum arc cathode spot grouping and motion in magnetic fields

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1 Author(s)
Beilis, I.I. ; Dept. of Interdisciplinary Studies, Tel Aviv Univ., Israel

Two of the important vacuum arc phenomena observed when the arc runs in a transverse magnetic field are cathode spot grouping and the cathode spot retrograde motion, i.e., in the anti-Amperian direction. This paper summarizes the main experimental observations and proposes a physical model for spot grouping and spot retrograde motion. The proposed spot motion model take in account the previous theoretical model of the cathode thermal regime and the plasma flow near the cathode surface that is based on two conditions: i) the heat loss in the cathode bulk is relatively small to the heat influx, and ii) the plasma flow in the Knudsen layer is impeded. In the present model, the current per group spot is calculated by assuming that the plasma kinetic pressure is comparable to the self-magnetic pressure in the acceleration region of cathode plasma jet. The model includes equations for the current per spot group, spot velocity dependence on the magnetic field and on the arc current in vacuum, as well as in gas filled arc gap. The calculated currents per spot group and spot velocity increase linearly with the magnetic field and arc current, and this dependencies well agree with previous observations. The cathode spot retrograde motion in short electrode gaps and at atmospheric pressure arcs, and the reversal motion in strong magnetic fields (>1 T) observed by Robson and Engel are discussed. The details of the retrograde motion observed in the last decades including the spot velocity dependence on the electrode gap, roughness, temperature, and material could be understood in the frame of the proposed model.

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Plasma Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:30 ,  Issue: 6 )