An investigation was made of the characteristics of the formation of a selfcontroled volume discharge for the pumping of CO2 lasers, i.e. self-sustained volume discharge (SSVD), which involved a preliminary filling of a discharge gap by an electron flux from an auxiliary-discharge plasma. We have found that this method was suitable for large interelectrode gaps, that distortion of the electric field in the gap by the space charge of the electron flux played an important role in the formation of the discharge and that the electrodes could be profiled dynamically during propagation of an electron flux through the discharge gap and a SSVD could form in systems with a strongly inhomogeneous field. High power SSVD based CO2 laser systems have been created and investigated.
Another type of self-controled volume discharge without pre-ionization, i.e. a selfinitiated volume discharge (SIVD), in nonchain HF lasers with SF6−C2H6 mixtures was investigated as well in our review. We have established that, after the primary local electrical breakdown of the discharge gap, the SIVD spreads along the gap in directions perpendicular to that of the electric field by means of the successive formation of overlapping diffuse channels under a discharge voltage close to its quasi-steady state value. It is shown that, as new channels appear, the current flowing through the channels formed earlier decreases. The volume occupied by the SIVD increases with increase in the energy deposited in the plasma and, when the discharge volume is confined by a dielectric surface, the discharge voltage increases simultaneously with increase in the current. The possible mechanisms which explain the observed phenomena, namely the dissociation of SF6 molecules and electron attachment SF6 molecules, are examined. A simple analytical model, which makes it possible to describe these mechanisms at a qualitative level, was developed. High power SIVD based HF(DF) lasers have been developed and tested.
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