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Five possible discharge modes can exist at the anode of a vacuum arc. The two most common anode modes are a low current mode, where the anode is basically inert; and a high current mode with a fully developed anode spot. This anode spot is very bright, has a temperature near the boiling point of the anode material, and is a copious source of vapor and energetic ions. Three additional anode modes can occur in appropriate circumstances. A low current vacuum arc with electrodes of readily sputterable material will emit a flux of sputtered atoms from the anode. At intermediate currents, an anode footpoint can form. This footpoint is luminous, but much cooler than a true anode spot. Finally, a high current mode can exist where several small anode spots are present instead of a single large anode spot.
Date of Publication: Sept. 1983