Phenomenology of subnanosecond gas discharges at pressures below one atmosphere

Herman G. Krompholz, Lynn L. Hatfield, Andreas A. Neuber, Kevin P. Kohl, Jordan E. Chaparro, Ryu Han-Yong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Volume breakdown and surface flashover in quasi-homogeneous applied fields in 10-5 to 600 torr argon and dry air are investigated, using voltage pulses with 150 ps risetime, <1ns duration, and up to 150 kV amplitude into a matched load. The test system consists of a transmission line, a transition to a biconical section, and a test gap, with gap distances of about 1mm. The arrangement on the other side of the gap is symmetrical. Diagnostics include fast capacitive voltage dividers, for determination of voltage waveforms in the gap, and conduction current waveforms through the gap. X-ray diagnostics use a scintillator-photomultiplier combination with different absorber foils yielding coarse spectral resolution. Optical diagnostics include use of a streak camera to get information on the discharge channel geometry and dynamics, and temporally resolved measurements with photomultipliers. Breakdown delay times are on the order of 100-400 ps, with minima occurring in the range of several 10torr. X-ray emission extends to pressures >100 torr, indicating the role of runaway electrons during breakdown. Maximum X-ray emission coincides with shortest breakdown delay times at several 10 torr. Simple modeling using the average force equation and cross sections for momentum transfer and ionization supports the experimental results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-936
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Plasma Science
Issue number3 PART 3
StatePublished - 2006


  • Gas discharges
  • High overvoltages
  • Runaway electrons
  • Subnanosecond regime


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