Transient Current Interruption Mechanism in a Magnetically Delayed Vacuum Switch

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Physics and Astronomy


The capacity of a magnetically delayed vacuum switch to conduct current depends on the density of plasma injected into the switch. Exceeding the current capacity results in the switch entering a lossy mode of operation characterized by a transient interruption of the main current (opening behavior) and a rapid increase of voltage across the vacuum gap. Streak and framing photographs of the discharge indicate that a decrease of luminosity near the middle of the gap precedes the transition to the opening phase. The zone of low luminosity propagates toward the cathode. This evidence suggests that the mechanism causing the opening phase is erosion of the background plasma in a manner similar to that in a plasma-opening switch. The resulting ion depletion forces a space-charge-limited conduction mode. The switch inductance maintains a high discharge current even during the space-charge-limited conduction phase, thus producing high internal fields. The high accelerating voltage, in turn, produces electron and ion beams that heat the electrode surfaces. As a result of the heating, jets of electrode vapor issue from the electrodes, either cathode or anode, depending on the selection of electrode materials.

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Journal of Applied Physics





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