Observations of neutral depletion and plasma acceleration in a flowing high-power argon helicon plasma

Denning, C. Mark; Wiebold, Matt; Scharer, John E.
July 2008
Physics of Plasmas;Jul2008, Vol. 15 Issue 7, p072115
Academic Journal
Neutral depletion effects are observed in a steady-state flowing argon helicon plasma with a magnetic nozzle for high rf input powers (up to 3 kW). Noninvasive diagnostics including 105 GHz microwave interferometry and optical spectroscopy with collisional-radiative modeling are used to measure the electron density (ne), electron temperature (Te), and neutral density (nn). A region of weak neutral depletion is observed upstream of the antenna where increasing rf power leads to increased electron density (up to ne=1.6×1013 cm-3) while Te remains essentially constant and low (1.7–2.0 eV). The downstream region exhibits profound neutral depletion (maximum 92% line-averaged ionization), where Te rises linearly with increasing rf power (up to 4.9 eV) and ne remains constrained (below 6.5×1012 cm-3). Flux considerations indicate accelerated plasma flow (Mach 0.24) through the antenna region due to an axial pressure gradient with reduced collisional drag from neutral depletion.


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