## Doctoral Thesis

This thesis investigated dielectric barrier discharges (DBDs) in N2-O2 gas mixtures at atmospheric pressure, with a focus on the gas discharge physics. The main goal was to evaluate whether possible control mechanisms exist that can manipulate the breakdown and the development of DBDs, especially for pulsed operation. To examine the pre-breakdown phase, the actual breakdown and the main DBD development, DBDs in a double-sided, single filament arrangement with a 1 mm discharge gap were investigated by means of electrical and optical diagnostics with high resolutions. Spectrally- and temporally-resolved iCCD pictures (2D in space), spectrally- and spatio-temporally-resolved streak camera and CCS images (1D in space) were simultaneously recorded accompanied by a full electrical characterisation with fast voltage and current probes. Sinusoidal- and pulsed-driven DBDs were found to have a qualitatively similar spatio-temporal development, i.e. a cathode-directed ionisation front (v ~ 10^6 m/s, positive streamer mechanism), followed by a transient glow-like phase in the gap. For sinusoidal operation, the slope of the applied voltage is flat (dU/dt ~ 1 V/ns) compared to pulsed operation (dU/dt ~ 100 V/ns). Thus, during the longer pre-phase of the sine-driven DBD, many more charge carriers were generated, in contrast to the pulsed-driven DBDs, where the pre-phase is limited by the short voltage rise time. Consequently, just before the breakdown occurs, the charge carrier density is higher for sine-driven DBDs, i.e. the positive streamer starts in a highly pre-ionised environment, which leads to a lower propagation velocity. In addition to limiting the pre-phase (lower pre-ionisation), the steep voltage slope of the pulsed DBD amplifies the streamer breakdown because the applied voltage rises significantly during its propagation. Therefore, the transferred electrical charge and the electrical power of a single DBD can be controlled by the applied voltage amplitude, but only in pulsed operation. In addition to the effects of different voltage slope steepness, the pulse width is an excellent parameter in the pulsed operation to set the pre-ionisation, by shifting the DBDs into the after-glow of the previous discharge using asymmetrical HV pulse waveforms. The subsequent DBDs ignite in different pre-ionised conditions, defined by the residual charge carrier densities in the gap that originated from the previous DBD. The breakdown characteristics of these DBDs could be controlled down to the fundamental level. This thesis has described for the first time four different breakdown regimes in single filament DBDs for 0.1 vol% N2 in O2 and connected them to the processes during their pre-phases. The â€śclassicâ€ť DBD development (a cathode-directed streamer followed by a transient glow discharge) could be controlled in a certain range, followed by a transition first to a breakdown regime featuring a simultaneous propagation of a cathode- and an anode-directed streamer, and finally to a reignition of the previous DBDs without any propagation, just by reducing the pulse width (time between two subsequent DBDs), i.e. increasing the pre-ionisation level. All differences between the DBDs at rising and falling slopes could be explained by the different pre-conditions in the gap. The O2 concentration in the N2-O2 gas mixtures offers another way of controlling the pre-ionisation. Due to the electron attachment as a consequence of the electronegativity of oxygen, the electron density decreases for higher O2 admixtures. Furthermore, the differences in the first Townsend ionisation coefficient and in the photo-ionisation between N2 and O2 influence the DBD behaviour as well. To some extent, some of the reported effects achieved by varying the pulse width at a fixed O2/N2 ratio were also observed for a fixed pulse width and changing O2 concentration. Hence, the response of the DBD properties to changing pre-ionisation levels seems to be a general principle of DBD control. Additional effects of the O2/N2 ratio, such as an increasing DBD inception jitter or higher streamer velocities, were also reported. Finally, a reverse of the effects induced by the O2 admixture such as DBD emission duration or DBD inception delay, was observed for O2 concentrations below 0.01 vol%, and were especially pronounced at a pressure of 0.5 bar. For 0.1 vol% O2 in N2, a minimal electron recombination rate was found, which can be explained by the different decay and recombination rates of positive nitrogen and oxygen ions. These different rates effect the charge carrier dynamics and consequently, the pre-ionisation in the gap. In conclusion, this investigation has highlighted the importance of volume memory processes on the breakdown and development of single filament DBDs at elevated pressures.

In this work, various aspects of fundamental physics and chemistry of molecular gas discharges are presented with emphasis on the interaction between species, activated by low-pressure plasmas, and surfaces. As already known, synergistic effects of multiple plasma-generated species are responsible for surface modification. However, due to the large number of internal parameters of a discharge and the complex plasma processes the identification of correlations between plasma characteristics and their effects on surfaces are complicated. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to improve the understanding of several phenomena associated with plasmaâ€“surface interactions by measuring or calculating fundamental kinetic, transport or spectroscopic data needed to interpret measurements and hereby, to support some future applications of plasmas.

In the present work, a time- and radial-dependent fluid model has been developed to describe the glow-to-arc transition of the positive column in the course of constriction. The self-consistent model comprises the particle balance equations for the relevant species, the balance equation of the mean electron energy and the heavy particle temperature in the plasma, the Poisson equation for the space-charge potential, and a current balance determining the axial electric field. The model adopts the nonlocal moment method, i.e., the system of the balance equations resulting from the moments of the radially dependent Boltzmann equation is solved. The electron transport and rate coefficients are adapted as functions of the mean energy of the electrons, the gas temperature and the ionization degree. The model is applied to a description of the constriction of the dc positive column in argon, for a wide range of pressures and applied currents. Pronounced nonlocal features of the mean electron energy balance are found and their influence on the constricted argon positive column is analyzed. Different assumptions concerning the electron velocity distribution function (EVDF) have been considered in the present model. The assumption of a Maxwellian distribution for the electrons was found to be inappropriate, while the assumption of a Druyvesteyn distribution for the electrons was found to be suitable for describing qualitatively the glow-to-arc transition. However, the standard model using the EVDF obtained from the solution of the steady-state, spatially homogeneous electron Boltzmann equation including electron-electron collisions allows to describe the constriction effect and provides best agreement with experimental data and other available modelling results. The fluid model has also been used to study a medium-pressure pulsed positive column in xenon at conditions of the contracted discharge. The simulation results provide a detailed insight in the physical mechanisms of xenon discharges in pulsed mode. The stepwise ionization of the excited atoms, the conversion of the atomic ions into molecular ions as well as the dissociative recombination of the molecular ions are found to be the most important processes for the pulsed positive column in xenon plasmas at conditions of the contracted discharge. The comparison of the model predictions with experimental results generally shows good agreement. In particular, the model predictions are suitable for qualitative reproduction of the significant increase of low-lying atomic levels densities as well as of the higher and of the relaxed lowest vibrational states of the Xe2* excimers in the afterglow phase of the pulse.