Time dependence of anode spot formation threshold current in vacuum arcs

Raymond L. Boxman, Jeffrey H. Harris, Adam Bless

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The variation of threshold current for the transition between the low current quiescent vacuum arc mode, and the high voltage noisy mode associated with anode spot formation, was measured as a function of peak current, current waveform frequency, and electrode separation on fixed diameter (25 mm) Cu and Ni electrodes. At current waveform frequencies of about 60 Hz on Cu electrodes, the threshold current depends mainly on electrode spacing, as has been observed by other investigators. However, at higher waveform frequencies, the threshold current becomes a strong function of peak current as well. At 347 Hz on 25 mm. diam. Cu electrodes separated by 10 mm, the threshold current rose from approximately 2 kA to 5.5 kA, as the peak current rose from 2 kA to 6 kA. At 543 Hz on 25 mm diam Ni electrodes separated by 9 mm, a saturation in threshold current at about 7.5 kA was observed for peak currents greater than 9 kA. Simultaneous anode temperature measurements indicated that the Ni anode surface temperature immediately prior to transition rose from about 1550° K to 2250° K with variations of peak current from 5 kA to 13 kA. Predictions of the variation of threshold current based on random transitions, and on cathode spot migration over the edge of the cathode, are compared with the experimental data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-237
Number of pages5
JournalIEEE Transactions on Plasma Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1978


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