Atmospheric-pressure plasma jet. A .gamma.-mode, resonant-cavity plasma discharge that can be operated at atmospheric pressure and near room temperature using 13.56 MHz rf power is described. Unlike plasma torches, the discharge produces a gas-phase effluent no hotter than 250.degree. C. at an applied power of about 300 W, and shows distinct non-thermal characteristics. In the simplest design, two concentric cylindrical electrodes are employed to generate a plasma in the annular region therebetween. A "jet" of long-lived metastable and reactive species that are capable of rapidly cleaning or etching metals and other materials is generated which extends up to 8 in. beyond the open end of the electrodes. Films and coatings may also be removed by these species. Arcing is prevented in the apparatus by using gas mixtures containing He, which limits ionization, by using high flow velocities, and by properly shaping the rf-powered electrode. Because of the atmospheric pressure operation, no ions survive for a sufficiently long distance beyond the active plasma discharge to bombard a workpiece, unlike low-pressure plasma sources and conventional plasma processing methods.
The present invention relates generally to plasma generation and applications of plasmas to etching and cleaning surfaces and, more particularly, to a coaxial, non-thermal, resonant cavity, atmospheric pressure plasma jet which generates metastable and reactive species. The invention was made with government support under Contract No. W-7405-ENG-36 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to The Regents of the University of California. The government has certain rights in this invention.