Abstract

We have investigated channeling the DC dielectric breakdown of a 20 cm air gap by a sequence of four concatenated plasma filaments, independently produced by four focused, 5-ps-long laser pulses. The polarity of the applied DC voltage, as well as the temporal delay between the four pulses, was varied from a few to 400 ns, in an attempt to find the optimum direction and speed of the stepping filament sequence. We have found that the filament sequence reliably channeled the breakdown and measurably reduced the breakdown threshold voltage, relative to that in the unguided breakdown. However, no meaningful dependence on either the polarity of the applied DC voltage or the stepping speed of the filament sequence was observed. Our results support the established scenario of channeling the DC air breakdown by laser filaments, which is primarily based on the creation of a reduced-density air channel bridging the discharge gap. The channeling mechanism associated with seeding the discharge leader by the filament plasma plays a negligible role.

© 2019 Optical Society of America

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