Gas breakdown in the subnanosecond regime with voltages below 15 kV

Hermann Krompholz, Lynn L. Hatfield, Magne Kristiansen, David Hemmert, Brent Short, John Mankowski, Mark D.J. Brown, Larry L. Altgilbers

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14 Scopus citations


Gaseous breakdown in the subnanosecond regime is of interest for fast pulsed power switching, short pulse electromagnetics, and for plasma limiters to protect electronic devices from high power microwave radiation. Previous investigations of subnanosecond breakdown were mainly limited to high-pressure gases or liquids, with voltages in excess of 100 kV. In this paper, we investigate subnanosecond breakdown at applied voltages below 7.5 kV in point-plane geometries in argon, with a needle radius <0.5 μm. The coaxial setup allows current and voltage measurements with temporal resolutions down to 80 ps. Voltages of 7.5 kV (which are doubled at the open gap before breakdown) produce breakdowns with a delay of about 1 ns. With negative pulses applied to the tip and the same amplitude, breakdown is always observed during the rising part of the pulse, with breakdown delay times below 800 ps, at pressures between 102 and 104 Pa. At lower pressure, a longer delay time (8 ns at 6 Pa) is observed. We expect the breakdown mechanism to be dominated by electron field emission, but still influenced by gaseous amplification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1916-1921
Number of pages6
JournalIEEE Transactions on Plasma Science
Issue number5 I
StatePublished - Oct 2002


  • Microwave breakdown
  • Point-plane discharge
  • Subnanosecond gas breakdown


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