A detailed study of the mechanical and electrical aspects of microparticle impact phenomena

  • Amrit S. Brah

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


An experimental and theoretical study of the impact behaviour of charged microparticles in a high voltage vacuum gap has been carried out to investigate under controlled conditions the role of low velocity microparticles (ζ 500 ms-1) in initiating electrical breakdown in such gaps. This has involved developing a unique (UHV) low-velocity source of micron-sized charged particles to study the underlying mechanical and electrical aspects of micro-particle impact on a range of target materials e.g. Pb, Ti, C, stainless-steel and mica etc., having atomically clean or oxidised surfaces. Argon-ion etching and electron-beam heating has been used for in-situ surface treatment and ellipsometry for characterising the target surfaces. An associated sphere/plane theoretical model has been developed for detailed analysis of the many complex electrical (in-flight in-field emission, M.I.M. tunnelling and ohmic conduction) and mechanical (impact dynamics, deformation and heating) phenomena that are involved when a microparticle closely approaches and impacts on a plane target. In each instance the influence of parameters such as particle radius, particle/target impact velocity, surface field, surface condition and material has been determined.
Date of Award1977
Original languageEnglish


  • microparticle
  • impact

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