Plasmas and Electric Discharges


Credit Hours:


Learning Objective:

To gain knowledge of basic processes in low-temperature weakly ionized plasmas and their properties, as well as of fundamental properties of DC, RF, corona, and spark electric discharges in gases.


This is an introductory course on weakly ionized plasmas and electric discharges. Some modern applications include plasma flow control, plasma-assisted combustion, plasma-tunable RF systems, and materials processing; however, the course focuses on fundamentals, i.e. on understanding the physics and the ability to do simple estimates, rather than on applications. Major topics include: elementary processes in plasmas; motion of charged particles in electric and electromagnetic fields; electron energy and it relation to ionization and de-ionization processes; electrical breakdown; nonequilibrium electric discharges; survey of selected applications.

Topics Covered:

Elementary collisional processes in plasmas. Motion of charged particles in electric and electromagnetic fields. Electron energy in plasmas. Ionization and de-ionization processes. Townsend and streamer electric breakdown. Microwave and laser induced breakdown. Glow discharge. Capacitively-coupled RF discharges. Corona and spark discharges. Survey of selected applications.


Students are expected to have basic knowledge of electricity and magnetism and the sophomore/junior level and some familiarity with thermodynamics and/or physics of gases. Knowledge of probability theory and statistical thermodynamics is helpful but not required.

Applied / Theory:

10 / 90

Web Address:

Web Content:

Syllabus, Lecture Notes, Homework


8 to 10 homework assignments.


Take-home (24 hrs) midterm exam and take-home (24 hrs) final exam.


1. Yu.P. Raizer, Gas Discharge Physics, Springer, 1991 or 1997, ISBN 978-3-642-64760-4. ??? Recommended
2. A. Fridman and L. Kennedy, Plasma Physics and Engineering, 2nd edition, CRC Press, 2011, ISBN 9781439812280. - Recommended
3. M.A. Lieberman and A. Lichtenberg, Fundamentals of Plasma Discharges and Materials Processing, 2nd edition, Wiley, 2005, ISBN 978-0-471-72001-0. - Recommended

Computer Requirements:

Proed minimum requirements

ProEd Minimum Requirements: