The formation of sub-micron sized particulates has been studied in a low pressure (0.1 mbar) radio-frequency (13.56 MHz) capacitively coupled plasma discharge. Particles are studied in situ by infrared absorption spectroscopy, laser illumination and Cavity Ring Down Absorption Spectroscopy. Transmission Electron Microscopy was applied ex situ for particulates collected during the plasma. We propose that two principal mechanisms may be involved in the formation of these particulates: formation and trapping of negative ions in the gaseous phase, and the recycling of material deposited on the electrodes during the discharge, by film erosion or delamination. The relative importance of these two mechanisms was studied in silane, methane, ethylene and acetylene plasmas. The growth of the particulates in silane plasmas, monitored with Infrared and Cavity Ring Down Absorption Spectroscopy, allowed us to distinguish an increasing volume growth phase followed by an agglomeration phase at constant volume, in agreement with the literature. A slight powder and film recycling effect is detected as the experiments are repeated, as observed by an increasing particle size. The hydrogen content of powder formed in silane plasmas was estimated in situ by infrared absorption spectroscopy and changes in the infrared absorption spectrum could be observed for silane diluted with hydrogen and argon. In particular, the porous structure of the powder was observed from the high content of surface related vibration bonds relative to bulk related bonds. Photoluminescence was detected for the particles at 2.15eV that could possibly be attributed to the crystalline structure of the particles. Infrared Absorption Spectroscopy and mass spectrometry applied in situ showed that acetylenic compounds are preferentially produced in methane, ethylene and acetylene plasmas and that the hydrogen content of the other species produced in these plasmas depends on the initial gas hydrogen content. Negative ions were evidenced in these plasmas and a polymerization reaction is proposed between acetylene and C2nHx- negative ions to explain the formation of particle's precursors. The formation of aromatic structures is suggested for n>3. The different relative abundance of C2Hx- ions is proposed to explain the different powder production rates with different initial gases or different fluxes. Hydrogen may inhibit the formation of high-mass negative ions and particles. Fast growth of spherical amorphous carbon particles (∼100s) was observed for a low pressure (0.1 mbar) acetylene plasma. The sp3 structure was confirmed in situ by infrared absorption spectroscopy. Slow growth (∼1000s) of irregularly shaped particles is observed for methane plasmas at the same pressure and power. Particle heterogeneity was studied with Transmission Electron Microscopy and showed graphitic onions, multiwalled nanotubes, flakes and agglomerates attributed to the erosion or the delamination of the deposited carbon layer. The influence of the recycling of the deposited layer on the powder formation was observed in situ from enhanced particle formation as the experiments were repeated. A similar behavior was observed for discharges containing mixtures of hexamethyldisiloxane, oxygen and helium. Keeping in mind that the control of powder homogeneity implies a control over the reactor contamination and its history, we conclude that an important part of the particulates formed in the discharges studied depends on the gas phase reactions, determined by the plasma chemistry.