Date of Award

Spring 2004

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical & Computer Engineering

Committee Director

Karl H. Schoenbach

Committee Member

Ravindra P. Joshi

Committee Member

Gilbert R. Hoy

Committee Member

Linda Vahala


Microhollow cathode discharges (MHCDs) are DC or pulsed gas discharges between two electrodes, separated by a dielectric, and containing a concentric hole. The diameter of the hole, in this hollow cathode configuration, is in the hundred-micrometer range. MHCDs satisfy the two conditions necessary for an efficient excimer radiation sources: (1) high energy electrons which are required to provide a high concentration of excited or ionized rare gas atoms; (2) high pressure operation which favors excimer formation (a three-body process). Flat panel excimer sources require parallel operation of MHCDs. Based on the current-voltage characteristics of MHCD discharges, which have positive slopes in the low current (Townsend) mode and in the abnormal glow mode, stable arrays of MHCD discharges in argon and xenon could be generated in these current ranges without ballasting each MHCD separately. In the Townsend range, these arrays could be operated up to pressures of 400 Torr. In the abnormal glow mode, discharge arrays were found to be stable up to atmospheric pressure. By using semi-insulating silicon as the anode material, the stable operation of MHCD arrays could be extended to the current range with constant voltage (normal glow) and also that with negative differential conductance (hollow cathode discharge region). Experiments with a cathode geometry without microholes, i.e. excluding the hollow cathode phase, revealed that stable operation of discharges over an extended area were possible. The discharge structure in this configuration reduces to only the cathode fall and negative glow, with the negative glow plasma serving to conduct the discharge current radially to the circular anode. With decreasing current, a transition from homogenous plasma to self-organized plasma filaments is observed. Array formation was not only studied with discharges in parallel, but also with MHCD discharges in series. By using a sandwich electrode configuration, a tandem discharge was generated. For an anode-cathode-anode configuration, the excimer irradiance, recorded on the axis of the discharge, was twice that of a single discharge. The extension of this basic tandem electrode structure to multiple electrode configurations permits the generation of high-irradiance excimer sources.