Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Vacuum arcs spark new interest

Date:
November 9, 2010
Source:
American Physical Society
Summary:
Whenever two pieces of metal at different voltages are brought near each other, as when an appliance is plugged into a live socket, there is a chance there will be an arc between them. Most of the arcs people see are a breakdown of the gas between the metal surfaces, but this type of breakdown can also occur in a vacuum. This vacuum breakdown, which until recently has not been well understood, has implications for applications from particle accelerators to fusion reactors.

Even in a vacuum, voltages can literally tear metal apart. Current research is using molecular dynamics to show what happens at the atomic level when material is damaged by arcing in vacuum.
Credit: J. Norem, Z. Insepov, Th. Proslier, D. Huang, S. Mahalingam, and S. Veitzer

Whenever two pieces of metal at different voltages are brought near each other, as when an appliance is plugged into a live socket, there is a chance there will be an arc between them. Most of the arcs people see are a breakdown of the gas between the metal surfaces, but this type of breakdown can also occur in a vacuum. This vacuum breakdown, which until recently has not been well understood, has implications for applications from particle accelerators to fusion reactors.

As part of an effort to understand the maximum accelerating field in particle accelerators, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have been modeling the processes involved in vacuum breakdown. Now, a new model of this phenomenon is beginning to reveal what is happening in these arcs, and scientists are studying a number of new phenomena associated with them.

In this new model, the breakdown arc is triggered by the electric field in the vacuum gap literally tearing the metal apart. (The same force that causes "static cling" can be very powerful for high electric fields, particularly at tiny corners, and in cracks where the fields are intensified by the local geometry of the surface.) After the metal is torn apart, the fragments should become ionized and form microscopic plasmas that are very dense and cold (for a plasma). Because of the high densities in these plasmas, the surface fields inside the arc quickly become even stronger than they were at breakdown. The arc becomes very damaging to the metal surface over a comparatively large area, eventually leaving a pit that should be visible to the naked eye.

While this model seems to be internally consistent, researchers want to use it to produce predictions that can be verified experimentally. Current research is using molecular dynamics to show what happens at the atomic level when the material is torn apart, plasma modeling codes to show how the plasma initially forms and what its properties are, and electrohydrodynamics to show how the surface of the arc pit is affected. While current results seem generally consistent with existing experimental measurements, more precise tests are being developed.

In principle, a better understanding of the precise causes of electrical breakdown should suggest solutions that are relevant to fusion reactors and space communications, among other things.

Researchers are presenting their work at the 52nd annual meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Plasma Physics, being held in Chicago Nov. 8-12.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Physical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Physical Society. "Vacuum arcs spark new interest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108072019.htm>.
American Physical Society. (2010, November 9). Vacuum arcs spark new interest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108072019.htm
American Physical Society. "Vacuum arcs spark new interest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108072019.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins