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Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Jan 7;106(1):018302. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

Electron-catalyzed mutual neutralization of various anions with Ar+: evidence of a new plasma process.

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  • 1Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts 01731-3010, USA.


The mutual neutralization of anions with Ar+ has been studied by variable electron and neutral density attachment mass spectrometry. Evidence of a previously unobserved plasma loss process, electron-catalyzed mutual neutralization (ECMN), e.g., SF6-+Ar+ + e-→neutrals + e-, is reported. Results for 10 species suggest that ECMN occurs generally and significantly affects the total ion-loss rate in plasmas with electron densities exceeding 10(10) cm-3. ECMN is discussed in the context of other known three-body plasma processes, the mechanisms for which appear insufficient to explain the observed effect. A mechanism for ECMN involving an incident electron facilitating energy transfer to the internal modes of the anion is proposed.

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