Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
The Absence of Plasma in "Spark Plasma Sintering"
- Author(s): Hulbert, Dustin M.
- et al.
Spark plasma sintering (SPS) is a remarkable method for synthesizing and consolidating a large variety of both novel and traditional materials. The process typically uses moderate uni-axial pressures (<100 MPa) in conjunction with a pulsing on-off DC current during operation. There are a number of mechanisms proposed to account for the enhanced sintering abilities of the SPS process. Of these mechanisms, the one most commonly put forth and the one that draws the most controversy involves the presence of momentary plasma generated between particles. This study employees three separate experimental methods in an attempt to determine the presence or absence of plasma during SPS. The methods employed include: in-situ atomic emission spectroscopy, direct visual observation and ultra-fast in-situ voltage measurements. It was found using these experimental techniques that no plasma is present during the SPS process. This result was confirmed using several different powders across a wide spectrum of SPS conditions.