Arc root dynamics in high power plasma torches — Evidence of chaotic behavior
Although plasma torches have been commercially available for about 50 years, areas such as plasma gun design, process efficiency, reproducibility, plasma stability, torch lives etc. have remained mostly unattended. Recent torch developments have been focusing on the basic understanding of the plasma column and its dynamics inside the plasma torch, the interaction of plasma jet and the powders, the interaction of the plasma jet with surroundings and the impingement of the jet on the substrate. Two of the major causes of erratic and poor performance of a variety of thermal plasma processes are currently identified as the fluctuations arising out of the arc root movement on the electrodes inside the plasma torch and the fluid dynamic instabilities arising out of entrainment of the air into the plasma jet. This paper reviews the current state of understanding of these fluctuations as well as the dynamics of arc root movement in plasma torches. The work done at the author’s laboratory on studying the fluctuations in arc voltage, arc current, acoustic emissions and optical emissions are also presented. These fluctuations are observed to be chaotic and interrelated. Real time monitoring and controlling the arc instabilities through chaos characterization parameters can greatly contribute to the understanding of electrode erosion as well as improvement of plasma torch lifetime.