Neutral depletion effects are observed in a steady-state flowing argon helicon plasma with a magnetic nozzle for high rf input powers (up to 3 kW). Noninvasive diagnostics including 105 GHz microwave interferometry and optical spectroscopy with collisional-radiative modeling are used to measure the electron density (ne), electron temperature (Te), and neutral density (nn). A region of weak neutral depletion is observed upstream of the antenna where increasing rf power leads to increased electron density (up to ne = 1.6×1013 cm-3) while Te remains essentially constant and low (1.7–2.0 eV). The downstream region exhibits profound neutral depletion (maximum 92% line-averaged ionization), where Te rises linearly with increasing rf power (up to 4.9 eV) and ne remains constrained (below 6.5×1012 cm-3). Flux considerations indicate accelerated plasma flow (Mach 0.24) through the antenna region due to an axial pressure gradient with reduced collisional drag from neutral depletion.
Denning CM, Wiebold M, Scharer JE. 2008. Observations of neutral depletion and plasma acceleration in a flowing high-power argon helicon plasma. Physics of Plasmas 15(7): 072115.