2015 Volume 31 Issue 6 Pages 503-511
This paper describes several interesting excitation phenomena occurring in a microwave-induced plasma (MIP) excited with Okamoto-cavity, especially when a small amount of oxygen was mixed with nitrogen matrix in the composition of the plasma gas. An ion-to-atom ratio of iron, which was estimated from the intensity ratio of ion to atomic lines having almost the same excitation energy, was reduced by adding oxygen gas to the nitrogen MIP, eventually contributing to an enhancement in the emission intensities of the atomic lines. Furthermore, Boltzmann plots for iron atomic lines were observed in a wide range of the excitation energy from 3.4 to 6.9 eV, indicating that plots of the atomic lines having lower excitation energies (3.4 to 4.8 eV) were well fitted on a straight line while those having more than 5.5 eV deviated upwards from the linear relationship. This overpopulation would result from any other excitation process in addition to the thermal excitation that principally determines the Boltzmann distribution. A Penning-type collision with excited species of nitrogen molecules probably explains this additional excitation mechanism, in which the resulting iron ions recombine with captured electrons, followed by cascade de-excitations between closely-spaced excited levels just below the ionization limit. As a result, these high-lying levels might be more populated than the low-lying levels of iron atom. The ionization of iron would be caused less actively in the nitrogen–oxygen plasma than in a pure nitrogen plasma, because excited species of nitrogen molecule, which can provide the ionization energy in a collision with iron atom, are consumed through collisions with oxygen molecules to cause their dissociation. It was also observed that the overpopulation occurred to a lesser extent when oxygen gas was added to the nitrogen plasma. The reason for this was also attributed to decreased number density of the excited nitrogen species due to collisions with oxygen molecule.