Spectroscopic measurements of phase-resolved electron energy distribution functions in RF-excited discharges
The reliable measurement of the electron energy distribution function (EEDF) of plasmas is one of the most important subjects of plasma diagnostics, because this piece of information is the key to understand basic discharge mechanisms. Specific problems arise in the case of RF-excited plasmas, since the properties of electrons are subject to changes on a nanosecond time scale and show pronounced spatial anisotropy. We report on a novel spectroscopic method for phase- and space-resolved measurements of the electron energy distribution function of energetic ( > 12 eV) electrons in RF discharges. These electrons dominate excitation and ionization processes and are therefore of particular interest. The technique is based on time-dependent measurements during the RF cycle of excited-state populations of rare gases admixed in small fractions. These measurements yield—in combination with an analytical model—detailed information on the excitation processes. Phase-resolved optical emission spectroscopy allows us to overcome the difficulties connected with the very low densities (107 109 cm-3) and the transient character of the electrons in the sheath region. The EEDF of electrons accelerated in the sheath region can be described by a shifted Maxwellian with a drift velocity component in direction of the electric field. The method yields the high-energy tail of the EEDF on an absolute scale. The applicability of the method is demonstrated at a capacitively coupled RF discharge in hydrogen.