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Journal of Applied Physics










The application of nanosecond voltage pulses to weakly ionized atmospheric pressure plasmas allows heating the electrons without considerably increasing the gas temperature, provided that the duration of the pulses is less than the critical time for the development of glow-to-arc transitions. The shift in the electron energy distribution towards higher energies causes a temporary increase in the ionization rate, and consequently a strong rise in electron density. This increase in electron density is reflected in an increased decay time of the plasma after the pulse application. Experiments in atmospheric pressure air glow discharges with gas temperatures of approximately 2000 K have been performed to explore the electron heating effect. Measurements of the temporal development of the voltage across the discharge and the optical emission in the visible after applying a 10 ns high voltage pulse to a weakly ionized steady state plasma demonstrated increasing plasma decay times from tens of nanoseconds to microseconds when the pulsed electric field was raised from 10 to 40 kV/cm. Temporally resolved photographs of the discharge have shown that the plasma column expands during this process. The nonlinear electron heating effect can be used to reduce the power consumption in a repetitively operated air plasma considerably compared to a dc plasma operation. Besides allowing power reduction, pulsed electron heating also has the potential to enhance plasma processes, which require elevated electron energies, such as excimer generation for ultraviolet lamps.


The following article appeared in Journal of Applied Physics and may be found at

Original Publication Citation

Stark, R. H., & Schoenbach, K. H. (2001). Electron heating in atmospheric pressure glow discharges. Journal of Applied Physics, 89(7), 3568-3572. doi:10.1063/1.1351546