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Scientific and technological progress of pseudospark devices

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13 Author(s)
Frank, Klaus ; Dept. of Phys. I, Erlangen-Nurnberg Univ., Germany ; Dewald, E. ; Bickes, C. ; Ernst, U.
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This paper presents an overview on the state-of-the-art of research and development with pseudospark devices. There is an ongoing interest worldwide in this novel low pressure gas discharge device. This is proven by the several papers recently published. Careful studies of breakdown characteristics with two-electrode pseudospark devices show that the simple relation of the old Paschen law is modified for this geometry. Especially for operating the pseudospark reliably at low gas pressure, it is necessary to superimpose external magnetic fields to initiate the discharge. At low pressure intense beam formation is enhanced but in parallel is hampered by less efficient space-charge-neutralization. Based on the original pseudospark geometry several modified beam configurations were developed like the channel spark and the preionization-controlled open-ended hollow cathode system. In pulsed electrical circuits for discharge currents below 10 kA, distinct discharge phenomena appear which have to be suppressed for any application. One of these is transient impedance transition, correlated with steps in forward voltage drop. By geometry and choice of electrode material the irregular transitions in impedance can be controlled over a wide parameter range. Another annoying effect is quenching obvious by sudden and irregular interruption of the discharge current. Quenching is observed as a random effect, which is influenced by a manifold of parameters. Results from the experiment indicate that quenching is strongly dependent on the number density of gas atoms in the discharge volume. Since silicon carbide (SiC) as part of the switch electrode downsizes the quenching current to negligible values (<1 kA) optical spectroscopy was used to investigate the influence of this semiconducting material on the temporal development of the discharge, by looking for emission lines of the released silicon and/or carbon atoms. The technological aspects of pseudospark devices are naturally to achieve higher lifetime and improved overall reliability. Multichannel configurations and two-gap systems are under development to reduce erosion rate and to increase hold-off capability, respectively. Under clean conditions a hold-off voltage of 65 kV was realized by a two-gap system

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Plasma Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:27 ,  Issue: 4 )