Self-organization of periodic, streamer-like ionization waves in planar microplasma devices having a dielectric barrier discharge structure is observed. In contrast to plasma propagation in arrays of microchannels or microcavities, the ionization waves originate from a single point but rapidly sub-divide into as many as 10 'branch' plasma wave packets that eventually recombine. In less than 70 ns, the self-organization of the spatially-periodic array of co-propagating branches is complete and two successive sets of waves, separated in distance and time by ∼1.8 mm and ∼50 ns, respectively, are generated. The mean propagation velocity of each plasma packet is greater than 70 km s-1 but values as large as 150 km s-1 have been measured. Because the propagation path for all subsequent streamers is established by the first set of plasma packets, the intensity of the second set is noticeably enhanced. The average length of the primary branches is ∼1.5 mm but reaches a maximum of ∼4.5 mm as the wave packets travel an overall distance of 1 cm. These phenomena are interpreted in terms of photoelectron emission from the floor and walls of the shallow dielectric microcavity, induced by radiation from the advancing packets, and the rapid collapse of the sheath of each microplasma owing to the accumulation of charge on the underlying dielectric. The spatial profiles of the propagating plasmas suggest that generating and probing plasma solitons may now be feasible.
- ionization wave propagation
- micro dielectric barrier discharge
- periodic self-organization
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics