Ion acoustic waves and double-layers in electronegative expanding plasmas

Plihon, Nicolas; Chabert, Pascal
August 2011
Physics of Plasmas;Aug2011, Vol. 18 Issue 8, p082102
Academic Journal
Ion acoustic waves and double-layers are observed in expanding plasmas in electronegative gases, i.e., plasmas containing an appreciable fraction of negative ions. The reported experiments are performed in argon gas with a variable amount of SF6. When varying the amount of SF6, the negative ion fraction increases and three main regimes were identified previously: (i) the plasma smoothly expands at low negative ion fraction, (ii) a static double-layer (associated with an abrupt potential drop and ion acceleration) forms at intermediate negative ion fraction, (iii) double-layers periodically form and propagate (in the plasma expansion direction) at high negative ion fraction. In this paper, we show that transition phases exist in between these regimes, where fluctuations are observed. These fluctuations are unstable slow ion acoustic waves, propagating in the direction opposite to the plasma expansion. These fluctuations are excited by the most unstable eigenmodes and display turbulent features. It is suggested that the static double layer forms when the ion acoustic fluctuations become non-linearly unstable: the double layer regime being a bifurcated state of the smoothly expanding regime. For the highest negative ion fraction, a coexistence of (upstream propagating) slow ion acoustic fluctuations and (downstream) propagating double layers was observed.


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