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Current, luminosity, and X-ray emission in the early phase of dielectric surface flashover in vacuum

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4 Author(s)
Hegeler, F. ; Texas Tech. Univ., Lubbock, TX, USA ; Masten, G. ; Krompholz, H. ; Hatfield, L.L.

With high-speed electrical and optical diagnostics, an attempt is made to elucidate the physical mechanisms leading to surface flashover. The experimental device uses a cable discharge to study self-breakdown along the surface of an insulator in vacuum. Preflashover current, breakdown voltage, luminosity, and soft X-ray emission are measured in temporal correlation with a resolution of 1 ns. The results show a linearly increasing current in the subampere range, and a corresponding linearly increasing luminosity, before an exponential increase of both signals takes over. The linear phase is accompanied by X-ray emission which ceases at the onset of the exponential phase. The strong influence of externally applied magnetic fields on the linear phase points to the existence of free electrons above the surface during the early phase of flashover. A linear current rise without magnetic field and the formation of a current plateau with an insulating magnetic field indicate a saturation of the current amplification mechanism in the early phase

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Plasma Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:21 ,  Issue: 2 )