Pitchford, Leanne C. Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Last reviewed:January 2020
- Sources of electrons
- Townsend discharge
- Gas breakdown
- Glow discharge
- Glow-to-arc transition
- Corona discharge
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A system made up of a gas, electrodes, and an enclosing wall in which an electric current is carried by charged particles in response to an electric field, the gradient of the electric potential, or the voltage between two surfaces. The gas discharge is manifested in a variety of modes (including Townsend, glow, arc, and corona discharges) depending on parameters such as the gas composition and density, the external circuit or source of the voltage, electrode geometry, and electrode material. A gas discharge can also be inductively coupled to an alternating-current (ac) circuit, eliminating the need for electrodes. Gas discharges are useful both as tools to study the physics existing under various conditions and in technological applications such as in the lighting industry and in electrically excited gas lasers. See also: Laser; Vapor lamp
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