Influence of metastable atoms in low pressure magnetized radio-frequency argon discharges
One-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations with Monte Carlo collisions are used to investigate the influence of metastable atoms in low pressure radio-frequency argon discharges with magnetic fields ranging from 0 G to 60 G. Two metastable levels of argon species are included and tracked as particles, enabling multistep ionization and metastable pooling. At low magnetic fields, the metastable argon atoms have little influence on the discharge. At higher magnetic fields, the electron density increases and the electron temperature decreases at the center of the discharge with the inclusion of metastable atoms. The reduction in electron temperature is attributed to the depletion of energetic electrons due to low-energy-threshold reactions related to the metastable atoms. The reduced electron temperature leads to a reduction in the total ionization rate, albeit the contribution of multistep ionization increases with the magnetic field. The suppression of plasma diffusion at low electron temperatures plays a greater role than the reduction in ionization rate, resulting in a higher electron density. A transformation in metastable density profiles from parabolic to saddle type is observed with the increase in the magnetic field. Metastable atoms may play an important role in modulating the electron temperature in low pressure magnetized discharges.