Direct current breakdown in gases for complex geometries from high vacuum to atmospheric pressure
The demand for improved performances of power transmission devices requires ever smaller dimensions and higher working voltages which lead to increased risk of breakdown, for example, in satellite slip rings. Previous works are mostly limited to breakdown in simple geometries such as parallel plates or pin to plate. Here we discuss the effect of more complex geometries for dc breakdown in gases over a large pressure range (2 x 10(-5) to 10(3) mbar). Experimental measurements of dc gas discharge breakdown in a ring assembly geometry are compared with a numerical simulation model for gas breakdown using a fluid model. Starting with parallel plates (1 and 100 mm gap width representing approximately the shortest and longest electric field path lengths in the ring assembly geometry) and extending to double gap and multi-gap geometries, an understanding of the overall shape of the breakdown voltage versus pressure curve is established. The high (low) pressure thresholds of gas discharge are determined by the shortest (longest) electric field path length in a complex geometry. Moreover, the availability of multiple path lengths leads to a breakdown voltage minimum over a wide range of intermediate pressure because breakdown can occur in the most favourable gap. Finally, the numerical simulation in the ring assembly shows the importance of parameters such as the secondary electron emission coefficient which play a major role in determining the breakdown voltage value.