Skip to Main Content
Your organization might have access to this article on the publisher's site. To check, click on this link:http://dx.doi.org/+10.1063/1.373710
Using the nonlinear propagation properties of ultrashort laser pulses in air, we were able to produce long ionized filaments that served to guide spark discharges. With a laser pulse energy of 20 mJ, one or two ionized filaments were created and could guide streamer discharges over 2 m air gaps, where the electric field was fairly uniform and had an average value of 0.6 MV/m. Such a guiding effect was observed for times of 1–3 μs after the laser pulse created the ionized filaments. Longer delays (10–15 μs) were recorded at higher laser pulse energy, with a larger number of filaments. Images of the early stages of the discharge of a uniform air gap show that the laser-produced ionized filaments do not initiate the discharge process but act rather as preferred channels where the leader growth is accelerated. In the end, these straight conductive channels carry the arc current as the voltage in the gap breaks down. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.