Indexed on: 13 Oct '07Published on: 13 Oct '07Published in: Physical review letters
The kinetic study of three radio-frequency atmospheric-pressure helium microdischarges indicates that the electron energy probability function is far from equilibrium, and three electron groups with three distinct temperatures are identified. The relative population of electrons in different energy regions is strongly time modulated and differs significantly from values recently reported from fluid analyses. It is also shown that a flux of energetic electrons (epsilon>5 eV) that comprises up to 50% of the total electron flux can reach the electrodes. This energetic electron flux provides a new means of delivering energy to the electrodes and tuning the surface chemistry in atmospheric-pressure discharges. The three electron groups and the engineering of an energetic electron flux might open up a new paradigm in plasma-surface chemistry that has not been considered up until now.