Spatio-temporal analysis of the electron power absorption in electropositive capacitive RF plasmas based on moments of the Boltzmann equation

Julian Schulze, Zoltán Donkó, Trevor Lafleur, Sebastian Wilczek, Ralf Peter Brinkmann

Plasma Sources Science and Technology, Volume 27, Number 5


Power absorption by electrons from the space- and time-dependent electric field represents the basic sustaining mechanism of all radio-frequency driven plasmas. This complex phenomenon has attracted significant attention. However, most theories and models are, so far, only able to account for part of the relevant mechanisms. The aim of this work is to present an in-depth analysis of the power absorption by electrons, via the use of a moment analysis of the Boltzmann equation without any ad-hoc assumptions. This analysis, for which the input quantities are taken from kinetic, particle based simulations, allows the identification of textit{all} physical mechanisms involved and an accurate quantification of their contributions. The perfect agreement between the sum of these contributions and the simulation results verifies the completeness of the model. We study the relative importance of these mechanisms as a function of pressure, with high spatial and temporal resolution, in an electropositive argon discharge. In contrast to some widely accepted previous models we find that high space- and time-dependent ambipolar electric fields outside the sheaths play a key role for electron power absorption. This ambipolar field is time-dependent within the RF period and temporally asymmetric, i.e., the sheath expansion is not a ”mirror image” of the sheath collapse. We demonstrate that this time-dependence is mainly caused by a time modulation of the electron temperature resulting from the energy transfer to electrons by the ambipolar field itself during sheath expansion. We provide a theoretical proof that this ambipolar electron power absorption would vanish completely, if the electron temperature was constant in time. This mechanism of electron power absorption is based on a time modulated electron temperature, markedly different from the Hard Wall Model, of key importance for energy transfer to electrons on time average and, thus, essential for the generation of capacitively coupled plasmas.