Novel plasma sources for the plasma opening switch
The plasma opening switch (POS) is used in pulsed power systems where a fast opening and very high current switch is required. Plasma is injected into the switch, which carries a large conduction current before it opens in a process that lasts for a few nanoseconds and transfers the current to a parallel-connected load The conduction and opening times of the switch are dependent on the plasma parameters such as distribution, speed, temperature and species, which are all determined by the plasma source. This thesis begins with a description of the POS, with its conduction and opening mechanisms and the techniques of plasma generation all being considered, before it concentrates on the simple and inexpensive carbon gun. Plasma is normally produced by a pulsed discharge that evolves plasma from the evaporation and ionisation of a carbon based insulator. The first prototype carbon gun discussed in the thesis uses a classical coaxial arrangement that successfully produces dense, fast and hot plasma, although this is only capable of filling a small region with plasma. A number of plasma diagnostic techniques are described, before details are provided of the electrical probes that were used to characterise the plasma In a large POS a well-distributed plasma is obtained by combining a large number of guns in a complex and large system. This restncts the compactness of the POS resulting in a problem for any future commercial applications. A succession of developments to the prototype gun has led to a novel ring-shaped version that produces a much improved distribution of plasma, without the need for additional guns. In this, a pulsed discharge is initiated at a single point and the self-generated magnetic field forces the discharge to spread and to travel around the gun, whilst continuously ejecting plasma into the POS. The ideas and theories that explain how a discharge can be forced to move are described, together with details of the prototype designs. Results are given to confirm the operation of the gun, using high speed photography and electrical probes.