Avalanche processes in an idealized lamp: I. Measurements of formative breakdown time

Richard S. Moss, J. Gary Eden, Mark J. Kushner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrical breakdown of cold (room temperature) metal-halide arc lamps typically occurs through the fill of a rare gas (at a pressure of tens of Torrs) and the vapour produced by the metal donor. Restarting a warm lamp is often made difficult by the high pressure of the metal and metal-halide vapours. To reliably start cold lamps with a minimum voltage and a minimum sputtering of the electrodes, and to restart warm lamps that have a high pressure of the metal and metal-halide vapours, auxiliary sources of ionization are often used. As a point of departure for the study of these processes, measurements of formative breakdown times were made in a cylindrical discharge tube resembling a compact polycrystalline alumina envelope metal-halide lamp. Breakdown times were measured for Ar/Xe gas mixtures at total pressures of 10-90 Torr and biases up to 2 kV applied to a 1.6 cm gap. The data provide a knowledge base for a companion computational investigation. We found that breakdown times generally decreased with small admixtures of Xe in Ar (5-15%) and increased with larger admixtures. We attribute these trends to the changing shape of the tail of the electron energy distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2502-2509
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 21 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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