Dynamics of Breakdown in a Low-Pressure Argon–Mercury Mixture in a Long Discharge Tube
Breakdown dynamics in the course of glow discharge ignition in a long discharge tube (80 cm in length and 25 mm in diameter) filled with argon at a pressure of 3–4 Torr and mercury vapor at room temperature was studied experimentally. Rectangular voltage pulses with amplitudes from 1 to 2.5 kV were applied to the tube anode, the cathode being grounded. Complex electrical and optical measurements of the breakdown dynamics were carried out. Breakdown begins with a primary discharge between the anode and the tube wall. In this stage, a jump in the anode current and a sharp decrease in the anode voltage are observed and prebreakdown ionization wave arises near the anode. The cathode current appears only after the ionization wave reaches the cathode. The wave propagation velocity was measured at different points along the tube axis. The wave emission spectrum contains Hg, Ar, and Ar+ lines. The intensities of these lines measured at a fixed point exhibit very different time behaviors. The effect of the tube shielding on the breakdown characteristics was examined. It is found that, at a sufficiently narrow gap between the shield and the tube, this effect can be substantial.
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