A model of an electron beam interacting with neutral argon was developed by solving the chemical kinetic rate equations for the time-dependent populations of ground and excited levels of Arl and Aril as well as the populations of electron energy groups. Intensities of spectral lines were calculated, from predicted population densities and Einstein coefficients, and compared to experimental results.
The thermal plasma is generated during the beam pulse and persists for some time after the pulse is terminated. Low energy levels of Arii with a 4s or 4p valence electron have similar time profiles to the plasma density. However, high energy levels of Aril with a 4p′ or 4p′ valence electron have similar temporal profiles as the beam current. They are populated predominantly by direct ionization and exceed levels populated by thermal electrons. The 4p′ levels decay rapidly to 4s′ levels, which have very high beam deposition efficiencies for being pumped back to the 4p′ levels. In this way, certain transitions such as 4s′–4p′ in ArII are pumped directly by the electron beam. Without direct ionization, these transitions would be negligible compared to those transitions which have lower energy levels.