Lifecycle of laser-produced air sparks

S. S. Harilal, B. E. Brumfield, M. C. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


We investigated the lifecycle of laser-generated air sparks or plasmas using multiple plasma diagnostic tools. The sparks were generated by focusing the fundamental radiation from an Nd:YAG laser in air, and studies included early and late time spark dynamics, decoupling of the shock wave from the plasma core, emission from the spark kernel, cold gas excitation by UV radiation, shock waves produced by the air spark, and the spark's final decay and turbulence formation. The shadowgraphic and self-emission images showed similar spark morphology at earlier and late times of its lifecycle; however, significant differences are seen in the midlife images. Spectroscopic studies in the visible region showed intense blackbody-type radiation at early times followed by clearly resolved ionic, atomic, and molecular emission. The detected spectrum at late times clearly contained emission from both CN and N2+. Additional spectral features have been identified at late times due to emission from O and N atoms, indicating some degree of molecular dissociation and excitation. Detailed spatially and temporally resolved emission analysis provides insight about various physical mechanisms leading to molecular and atomic emission by air sparks, including spark plasma excitation, heating of cold air by UV radiation emitted by the spark, and shock-heating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number063301
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics


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