Statistical analysis of high power microwave surface flashover delay times in nitrogen with metallic field enhancements

Jonathan Foster, Hermann Krompholz, Andreas Neuber

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11 Scopus citations


The physical mechanisms that contribute to atmospheric breakdown induced by high power microwaves (HPMs) are of particular interest for the further development of high power microwave systems and related technologies. For a system in which HPM is produced in a vacuum environment for the purpose of radiating into atmosphere, it is necessary to separate the atmospheric environment from the vacuum environment with a dielectric interface. Breakdown across this interface on the atmospheric side and plasma development to densities prohibiting further microwave propagation are of special interest. In this paper, the delay time between microwave application and plasma emergence is investigated. Various external parameters, such as UV illumination or the presence of small metallic points on the surface, provide sources for electron field emission and influence the delay time which yields crucial information on the breakdown mechanisms involved. Due to the inherent statistical appearance of initial electrons and the statistics of the charge carrier amplification mechanisms, the flashover delay times deviate by as much as ± 50 from the average, for the investigated case of discharges in N2 at pressures of 60-140 Torr and a microwave frequency of 2.85 GHz with 3 μs pulse duration, 50 ns pulse risetime, and MW/cm2 power densities. The statistical model described in this paper demonstrates how delay times for HPM surface flashover events can be effectively predicted for various conditions given sufficient knowledge about ionization rate coefficients as well as the production rate for breakdown initiating electrons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113505
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


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