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This paper investigated the discharge characteristics driven by a short sustain pulsewidth according to the sustain pulsewidth and the off-time between the sustain pulses in an ac plasma display panel. As a result, the luminous efficacy was found to increase when decreasing the sustain pulsewidth due to a reduced ion heating loss. Furthermore, it was shown that the sustain discharge mode could be controlled by adjusting both the sustain pulsewidth and the off-time. It should be noted that the luminous efficacy was significantly improved when the sustain discharge was made to occur outside the sustain pulsewidth due to the minimized ion heating loss. Consequently, under this experimental condition, a sustain pulsewidth of 0.4 μs and an off-time of 10 μs produced the maximum luminous efficacy of 3 lm/W, which was almost double the value obtained with the conventional sustain pulsewidth of 2 μs and the off-time of 10 μs.