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A model of near-cathode layers in vacuum arcs is developed. The model relies on a numerical solution of the problem of near-cathode space-charge sheath with ionization of atoms emitted by the cathode surface, and allows the self-consistent determination of all parameters of the near-cathode layer, including the ion backflow coefficient. The dependence of the density of energy flux from the plasma to the cathode surface on the local surface temperature is nonmonotonic with a maximum, a feature that plays an important role in the physics of plasma–cathode interaction. The developed model may be used for a variety of purposes, including as a module of complex nonstationary multidimensional numerical models of plasma–cathode interaction in vacuum arcs. As a simple example, an analytical evaluation of parameters of stationary spots on copper and chromium is given. In the case of composite CuCr contacts with large grains, spots with current of several tens of amperes burning on the copper matrix coexist with spots with currents of the order of 1 A burning on the chromium grains.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2013