A method and apparatus are provided for propagating charged particles from a vacuum to a higher pressure region. A generator 14,14b includes an evacuated chamber 16a,b having a gun 18,18b for discharging a beam of charged particles such as an electron beam 12 or ion beam 12b. The beam 12,12b is discharged through a beam exit 22 in the chamber 16a,b into a higher pressure region 24. A plasma interface 34 is disposed at the beam exit 22 and includes a plasma channel 38 for bounding a plasma 40 maintainable between a cathode 42 and an anode 44 disposed at opposite ends thereof. The plasma channel 38 is coaxially aligned with the beam exit 22 for propagating the beam 12,12b from the chamber 16a,b, through the plasma 40, and into the higher pressure region 24. The plasma 40 is effective for pumping down the beam exit 22 for preventing pressure increase in the chamber 16a,b, and provides magnetic focusing of the beam 12,12b discharged into the higher pressure region 24.
This invention was made with Government support under contract number DE-AC02-76CH00016, between the U.S. Department of Energy and Associated Universities, Inc. The Government has certain rights in the invention.