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Abstract

This thesis presents an experimental investigation and a numerical simulation of breakdown in a ring assembly. 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 from high vacuum to atmospheric pressure. The breakdown voltage versus pressure curves shows a similar shape as Paschen curves but with a wide flat plateau between the low and high pressure thresholds. The low pressure threshold determines the limit between gas and vacuum discharges. Additional optical emission spectroscopy confirms the presence of two different kinds of discharges: Gas and vacuum dis- charges. Moreover the global shape of the gas breakdown voltage curve in the ring assembly has been fully understood by a complementary numerical simulation. Fur- ther current-voltage study showed that voltage only is the most significant factor for breakdown and that current determines the kind of discharge after breakdown. As the breakdown voltages are lower for gas discharges than for vacuum discharges, a numerical simulation model for gas breakdown using a fluid model was developed in order to support the experimental conclusions. Starting as simple as possible with par- allel plates (1 mm and 100 mm gap width representing approximatively the shortest and longest electric field path length 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 favorable 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.

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