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Physics  2014 

On the difference between breakdown and quench voltages of argon plasma and its relation to $4p-4s$ atomic state transitions

DOI: 10.1063/1.4907414

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Using a relaxation oscillator circuit, breakdown ($V_{\mathrm{BD}}$) and quench ($V_{\mathrm{Q}}$) voltages of a DC discharge microplasma between two needle probes are measured. High resolution modified Paschen curves are obtained for argon microplasmas including a quench voltage curve representing the voltage at which the plasma turns off. It is shown that, for a point to point microgap (e.g. the microgap between two needle probes) which describes many realistic microdevices, neither Paschen's law applies nor field emission is noticeable. Although normally $V_{\mathrm{BD}}>V_{\mathrm{Q}}$, it is observed that depending on environmental parameters of argon, such as pressure and the driving circuitry, plasma can exist in a different state with equal $V_{\mathrm{BD}}$ and $V_{\mathrm{Q}}$. Using emission line spectroscopy, it is shown that $V_{\mathrm{BD}}$ and $V_{\mathrm{Q}}$ are equal if the atomic excitation by the electric field dipole moment dominantly leads to one of the argon's metastable states ($4P_{5}$ in our study).


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