Measurements of anions and cations are reported for hydrocarbon and silane radio frequency capacitive glow discharges. Series of anions were observed by quadrupole mass spectrometry using power-modulated plasmas, and their structures are interpreted from the form of the mass spectra. Various experiments in silane plasmas show that anion confinement results in particles and conversely, anion detrapping can inhibit particle formation. In contrast, the polymerized neutral flux magnitudes, mass spectra and dynamics are independent of the powder formation. Powder is known to form readily in deposition plasmas containing electronegative free radicals, and the general role of anions in particle formation is discussed in the light of these experiments. (C) 1996 American Vacuum Society.