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A plasma discharge due to a sustaining pulse of an alternating current plasma display panel was analyzed using a two-dimensional particle-in-cell code, and basic characteristics of the plasma discharge were calculated. The characteristics of the plasma discharge due to a sustaining pulse are as follows. (i) A large amount of space charge remained after drawing the discharge current. This excess space charge did not contribute to wall charge formation or ultraviolet radiation. (ii) The electron energy distribution function was evaluated and could be well fitted by the Druyvesteyn distribution in the high-energy region. The Druyvesteyn distribution was a consequence of the cross section for electron-Ne elastic scattering. (iii) The calculated ultraviolet radiation efficiency η of the plasma discharge due to a sustaining pulse was between 5.51% and 30.7%. Examination of the sensitivity of the efficiency to the electron temperature showed that reducing the electron temperature was a key to improving the efficiency. (iv) A detailed understanding of the conditions for a stable plasma discharge, memory margin, firing voltage, and electrode voltage of the sustaining pulse were obtained from the voltage transfer curve. The voltage transfer curve could be used to optimize the discharge cell design. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.