Electron generation and multiplication at the initial stage of nanosecond breakdown in water

Xuewei Zhang, Mikhail N. Shneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Electrical breakdown of liquid dielectrics under nanosecond pulsed high voltage has been investigated extensively in the last decade. Prior studies have focused on either experimental characterization of the breakdown process and discharge plasma or formulation/verification of the electrostrictive cavitation mechanism of the breakdown initiation. There remain knowledge gaps toward a clear physical picture of how the first plasma is generated in a region saturated by nanoscale cavities created by electrostrictive forces in inhomogeneous fields at the nanosecond timescale. Initial plasma results from the multiplication of primary electrons that gain energy collisionlessly in the cavities to cause collisional ionization of water molecules on the cavity walls. This paper quantitatively discusses the possible sources of primary electrons that seed the plasma discharge. Electron detachment from hydroxide is shown to be the most probable and sustainable electron source. Using numerical modeling, this study demonstrates the plausibility of an electron multiplication mechanism involving two neighboring cavities. The drift of hydrated electrons from one cavity to the next is the rate-limiting step and sets the minimum electric field requirement. This work will inform subsequent experimental studies and have implications in various applications such as plasma sources in biomedical applications, cavitation study, and insulation of pulsed power equipment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103302
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 14 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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