Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, 15:1957 | Cite as

The transition from spark to arc discharge and its implications with respect to nanoparticle production

  • Esther HontañónEmail author
  • Jose María Palomares
  • Matthias Stein
  • Xiaoai Guo
  • Richard Engeln
  • Hermann Nirschl
  • Frank Einar Kruis
Research Paper


The synthesis of nanoparticles by means of electrical discharges between two electrodes in an inert gas at atmospheric pressure, as driven by a constant current ranging from a few milliamps to tens of amps, is investigated in this work. An extensive series of experiments are conducted with copper as a consumable electrode and pure nitrogen as the inert gas. Three different DC power supplies are used to drive electrical discharges for the entire operating current range. Then, three electrical discharge regimes (spark, glow, and arc) with distinct voltage–current characteristics and plasma emission spectra are recognized. For the first time, nanoparticles are synthesized by evaporation of an electrode by atmospheric pressure inert gas DC glow discharge of a few millimeters in size. The discharge regimes are characterized in terms of the mass output rate and the particle size distribution of the copper aerosols by means of online (tapered element oscillating microbalance, TEOM; and scanning mobility particle sizer, SPMS) and offline (gravimetric analysis; small and wide angle X-ray scattering, SWAXS; and transmission electron microscopy, TEM) techniques. The electrical power delivered to the electrode gap and the gas flow rate are two major parameters determining the aerosol mass output rate and the aerosol particle size distribution. The mass output rate of copper aerosols raises from 2 mg h−1 to 2 g h−1 when increasing the electrical power from 9 to 900 W. The particle mean size (SMPS d g) varies between 20 and 100 nm depending upon the electrical power and the gas flow rate, whereas the particle size dispersion (SMPS σ g) ranges from 1.4 to 1.7 and is only weakly dependent on the gas flow rate.


Spark discharge Glow discharge Arc discharge Mass output rate Particle size distribution 



This work has been financially supported by the European Union′s Seventh Framework Program (EU FP7) under Grant Agreement No. 280765 (BUONAPART-E). Dr. Julio Gómez (Avanzare S.L., Logroño, Spain) is acknowledged for performing SEM analyses of copper powders.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esther Hontañón
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jose María Palomares
    • 2
  • Matthias Stein
    • 1
  • Xiaoai Guo
    • 3
  • Richard Engeln
    • 2
  • Hermann Nirschl
    • 3
  • Frank Einar Kruis
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Technology of Nanostructures (NST) and Center for Nanointegration (CENIDE)University of Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Applied PhysicsEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute for Mechanical Process Engineering and Mechanics (MVM)Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)KarlsruheGermany

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