Gas breakdown in inhomogenous microwave electric fields
Journal article, 2009
The main physical properties of gas breakdown in inhomogeneous high frequency microwave electric fields are investigated using both analytical and numerical analysis. In particular, the interplay between diffusion and attachment in redistributing electrons from high field regions to low field regions and the concomitant effect on the breakdown threshold is studied using three different examples of ionization profiles. The results give a clear physical picture of the dependence of breakdown electric field on pressure showing a high pressure branch determined by conditions in the high field region, a low pressure branch determined by the properties of the low field region only, and a more or less smooth transition region for intermediate pressures. Simple estimates for the extension of the transition region are given in good agreement with the numerical simulations, and a comparison of the theoretical breakdown threshold with previous experimental results also shows good agreement.