On- and off-axis spectral emission features from laser-produced gas breakdown plasmas

S. S. Harilal, P. J. Skrodzki, A. Miloshevsky, B. E. Brumfield, M. C. Phillips, G. Miloshevsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Laser-heated gas breakdown plasmas or sparks emit profoundly in the ultraviolet and visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum with contributions from ionic, atomic, and molecular species. Laser created kernels expand into a cold ambient with high velocities during their early lifetime followed by confinement of the plasma kernel and eventually collapse. However, the plasma kernels produced during laser breakdown of gases are also capable of exciting and ionizing the surrounding ambient medium. Two mechanisms can be responsible for excitation and ionization of the surrounding ambient: photoexcitation and ionization by intense ultraviolet emission from the sparks produced during the early times of their creation and/or heating by strong shocks generated by the kernel during its expansion into the ambient. In this study, an investigation is made on the spectral features of on- and off-axis emission of laser-induced plasma breakdown kernels generated in atmospheric pressure conditions with an aim to elucidate the mechanisms leading to ambient excitation and emission. Pulses from an Nd:YAG laser emitting at 1064 nm with a pulse duration of 6 ns are used to generate plasma kernels. Laser sparks were generated in air, argon, and helium gases to provide different physical properties of expansion dynamics and plasma chemistry considering the differences in laser absorption properties, mass density, and speciation. Point shadowgraphy and time-resolved imaging were used to evaluate the shock wave and spark self-emission morphology at early and late times, while space and time resolved spectroscopy is used for evaluating the emission features and for inferring plasma physical conditions at on- and off-axis positions. The structure and dynamics of the plasma kernel obtained using imaging techniques are also compared to numerical simulations using the computational fluid dynamics code. The emission from the kernel showed that spectral features from ions, atoms, and molecules are separated in time with early time temperatures and densities in excess of 35 000 K and 4 × 1018/cm3 with an existence of thermal equilibrium. However, the emission from the off-kernel positions from the breakdown plasmas showed enhanced ultraviolet radiation with the presence of N2 bands and is represented by non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (non-LTE) conditions. Our results also highlight that the ultraviolet radiation emitted during the early time of spark evolution is the predominant source of the photo-excitation of the surrounding medium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number063304
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics


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