We have investigated the effect of constriction on the characteristics of low-pressure glow discharges in argon. In a series of experiments four discharge tubes with plane-parallel electrodes of different diameters (D = 31.4, 20, 10 and 5 mm) and same electrode separation (L0 = 45 mm) were studied. The discharges were surrounded by floating-potential metal tubes. We measured voltage-current characteristics of the discharges and recorded the spatial intensity distribution of selected spectral lines (Ar-I 750.3 nm, 811.5 nm and Ar-II 476.5 nm) in the electrode gap at current densities 0.2 mA cm-2≤j≤1 mA cm-2. We also observed copper lines in the spectrum originating from the sputtering of the copper cathode, even at these relatively low discharge current densities. The `effective surface' of the cathode - that actively participates in discharge operation - is always smaller than the cathode surface. This results from the radial electric field formed in the cathode dark space due to the accumulation of charges on the metal tube surrounding the discharge. Using a simple model we could calculate the effective cathode diameter (which determines the current density for given current). Taking into account the current density obtained this way, the voltage of the tubes was found to obey the V = f(j/p2) scaling relation. The increasing loss of charge on the metal wall with decreasing tube diameter also resulted in structural changes in the discharge. While at large diameter the cathode dark space and the negative glow filled the interelectrode gap, at low D a positive column-like part was also formed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films