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Experimental and numerical studies of neutral gas depletion in an inductively coupled plasma


The central theme of this dissertation is to explore the impact of neutral depletion and coupling between plasma and neutral gas in weakly ionized unmagnetized plasma. Since there have been few systematic studies of the mechanism which leads to non-uniform neutral distribution in processing plasmas, this work investigated the spatial profiles of neutral temperature and pressure experimentally, and the mechanism of resulting neutral depletion by simulation. The experimental work is comprised of neutral temperature measurements using high resolution atomic spectroscopy and molecular spectroscopy, and neutral pressure measurements considering thermal transpiration. When thermal transpiration effects are used to correct the gas pressure measurements, the total pressure remains constant regardless of the plasma condition. Since the neutral gas follows the ideal gas law, the neutral gas density profile is also obtained from the measured neutral gas temperature and the corrected pressure measurements. The results show that neutral gas temperature rises close to 900K and the neutral gas density at the center of plasma chamber has a significant (factor of 2-4) decrease in the presence of a plasma discharge. In numerical work, neutral and ion transport phenomena were simulated by a hybrid-type direct simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method of one dimensional (1D) electrostatic plasma to identify the mechanism of the neutral gas density depletion in Ar/N2 mixtures. The simulation reveals that the neutral depletion is the result of the interplay between plasma and neutral gas, and a parametric study indicates that neutral depletion occurs mainly due to gas heating and pressure balance for the typical condition of plasma processing. In high density plasma sources where the plasma pressure becomes comparable to neutral pressure, total pressure (neutral pressure and plasma pressure) is conserved before and after the discharge. Therefore the neutral pressure is reduced due the balance of total pressure with plasma pressure (mainly electron pressure). Neutral gas heating is due to the elastic scattering and charge exchange collisions with ions, which are accelerated by the bulk plasma ambi-polar electrostatic field. The excellent agreement between experiment and simulation, and parametric study reveal that gas heating and pressure balance are the main mechanisms of gas depletion in an inductively coupled plasma. Coupling between plasma and neutral gas was observed by both experiment and simulation. The resulting gas depletion enhances the plasma transport to the surrounding wall, increases the particle loss, and decreases the plasma density

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