Electric field measurements in a nanosecond pulse discharge in atmospheric air

Marien Junior Simeni Simeni, Benjamin M. Goldberg, Cheng Zhang, Kraig Frederickson, Walter R. Lempert, Igor V. Adamovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


The paper presents the results of temporally and spatially resolved electric field measurements in a nanosecond pulse discharge in atmospheric air, sustained between a razor edge high-voltage electrode and a plane grounded electrode covered by a thin dielectric plate. The electric field is measured by picosecond four-wave mixing in a collinear phase-matching geometry, with time resolution of approximately 2 ns, using an absolute calibration provided by measurements of a known electrostatic electric field. The results demonstrate electric field offset on the discharge center plane before the discharge pulse due to surface charge accumulation on the dielectric from the weaker, opposite polarity pre-pulse. During the discharge pulse, the electric field follows the applied voltage until 'forward' breakdown occurs, after which the field in the plasma is significantly reduced due to charge separation. When the applied voltage is reduced, the field in the plasma reverses direction and increases again, until the weak 'reverse' breakdown occurs, producing a secondary transient reduction in the electric field. After the pulse, the field is gradually reduced on a microsecond time scale, likely due to residual surface charge neutralization by transport of opposite polarity charges from the plasma. Spatially resolved electric field measurements show that the discharge develops as a surface ionization wave. Significant surface charge accumulation on the dielectric surface is detected near the end of the discharge pulse. Spatially resolved measurements of electric field vector components demonstrate that the vertical electric field in the surface ionization wave peaks ahead of the horizontal electric field. Behind the wave, the vertical field remains low, near the detection limit, while the horizontal field is gradually reduced to near the detection limit at the discharge center plane. These results are consistent with time-resolved measurements of electric field components, which also indicate that vertical electric field reverses direction after the ionization wave.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number184002
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number18
StatePublished - Apr 3 2017
Externally publishedYes



  • electric field
  • four-wave mixing
  • nanosecond pulse discharge
  • surface ionization wave

Cite this