Investigation of the delay time distribution of high power microwave surface flashover

J. Foster, H. Krompholz, A. Neuber

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44 Scopus citations


Characterizing and modeling the statistics associated with the initiation of gas breakdown has proven to be difficult due to a variety of rather unexplored phenomena involved. Experimental conditions for high power microwave window breakdown for pressures on the order of 100 to several 100 torr are complex: there are little to no naturally occurring free electrons in the breakdown region. The initial electron generation rate, from an external source, for example, is time dependent and so is the charge carrier amplification in the increasing radio frequency (RF) field amplitude with a rise time of 50 ns, which can be on the same order as the breakdown delay time. The probability of reaching a critical electron density within a given time period is composed of the statistical waiting time for the appearance of initiating electrons in the high-field region and the build-up of an avalanche with an inherent statistical distribution of the electron number. High power microwave breakdown and its delay time is of critical importance, since it limits the transmission through necessary windows, especially for high power, high altitude, low pressure applications. The delay time distribution of pulsed high power microwave surface flashover has been examined for nitrogen and argon as test gases for pressures ranging from 60 to 400 torr, with and without external UV illumination. A model has been developed for predicting the discharge delay time for these conditions. The results provide indications that field induced electron generation, other than standard field emission, plays a dominant role, which might be valid for other gas discharge types as well.

Original languageEnglish
Article number013502
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


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