Microplasmas and applications

K. H. Becker, K. H. Schoenbach, J. G. Eden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Atmospheric-pressure, non-equilibrium plasmas are susceptible to instabilities and, in particular, to arcing (glow-to-arc transition). Spatially confining the plasma to dimensions of 1 mm or less is a promising approach to the generation and maintenance of stable, glow discharges at atmospheric-pressure. Often referred to as microdischarges or microplasmas, these weakly-ionized discharges represent a new and fascinating realm of plasma science, where issues such as the possible breakdown of 'pd scaling' and the role of boundary-dominated phenomena come to the fore. Microplasmas are generated under conditions that promote the efficient production of transient molecular species such as the rare gas excimers, which generally are formed by three-body collisions. Pulsed excitation on a sub-microsecond time scale results in microplasmas with significant shifts in both the temperatures and energy distribution functions associated with the ions and electrons. This allows for the selective production of chemically reactive species and opens the door to a wide range of new applications of microplasmas. The implementation of semiconductor and microelectronics and MEMs microfabrication techniques has resulted in the realization of microplasma arrays as large as 250,000 devices. Fabricated in silicon or ceramics with characteristic device dimensions as small as 10 νm and at packing densities up to 104 cm-2, these arrays offer optical and electrical characteristics well suited for applications in medical diagnostics, displays and environmental sensing. Several microplasma device structures, including their fundamental properties and selected applications, will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R55-R70
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 6 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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