X-ray bursts produced by laboratory sparks in air

J. R. Dwyer, H. K. Rassoul, Z. Saleh, M. A. Uman, J. Jerauld, J. A. Plumer

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X-ray observations were made during fourteen 1.5 to 2.0 m high-voltage discharges in air produced by a 1.5 MV Marx circuit. All 14 discharges generated x-rays in the ∼30 to 150 keV range. The x-rays, which arrived in discrete bursts, less than 0.5 microseconds in duration, occurred from both positive and negative polarity rod-to-plane discharges as well as from small, 5-10 cm series spark gaps within the Marx generator. The x-ray bursts usually occurred when either the voltages across the gaps were the largest or were in the process of collapsing. The bursts are remarkably similar to the x-ray bursts previously observed from lightning. These results should allow for the detailed laboratory study of runaway breakdown, a mechanism that may play a role in thunderstorm electrification, lightning initiation and propagation, and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs).

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL20809
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 28 2005


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