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Dokumentenidentifikation EP0283161 27.10.1988
EP-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0283161
Titel Gasentladungsstruktur für einen RF-angeregten Gaslaser.
Anmelder Laser Applications Ltd., Hull, North Humberside, GB
Erfinder Allcock, Geoffrey, Hull North Humberside, HU10 7AQ, GB
Vertreter derzeit kein Vertreter bestellt
Vertragsstaaten DE, FR, GB, IT
Sprache des Dokument EN
EP-Anmeldetag 29.02.1988
EP-Aktenzeichen 883017295
EP-Offenlegungsdatum 21.09.1988
Veröffentlichungstag im Patentblatt 27.10.1988
IPC-Hauptklasse H01S 3/097
IPC-Nebenklasse H01S 3/045   

Beschreibung[en]

The present invention relates to R.F. discharge excited gas lasers and in particular to a gas discharge structure for exciting the gas discharge.

R.F. discharges have been used for the excitation of gas lasers since the earliest days of laser research. In 1971 a transverse R.F. field was used to excite a high power carbon dioxide laser in a rectangular multipass laser cavity (Clyde Brown and Jack Davis Appl Phys Lett 21 480 (1972) ). Conventionally the gas discharge is excited by means of a structure comprising two metal electrodes separated by a dielectric material such as ceramic. One electrode is held at ground potential and an R.F. signal is applied to the other. In this way the gas discharge is confined to the space between the two electrodes.

It will be readily apparent that the impedance of such a gas discharge structure can be represented by a capacitor, due to the natural capacitance of two electrodes separated by a dielectric material, in parallel with a resistance, due to the gas discharge between the two electrodes, and is given by:-

where W is the angular frequency of the R.F. signal, C is the natural capacitance of the gas discharge structure and R is the resistance of the gas discharge. The presence of the (-j) term indicates that the impedance includes a capacitative component.

In the prior art it is known to modify the capacitative component of the gas discharge structure by connecting external inductors in parallel with the structure. These may be localised at preferred points along the gas discharge structure or uniformly distributed. The effect of this is to both modify the input impedance of the structure to facilitate impedance matching with the R.F. signal generator, and to locally modify the voltage distribution along the "live" or R.F. electrode.

A major problem with this kind of conventional gas discharge structure is the efficient and uniform removal of heat from the gas discharge. Indeed, for high power lasers the problem is such that air cooling of the gas discharge structure becomes quite inadequate and some form of liquid cooling is required. Water cooling is cheap and there is no need to re-cycle it as is the case with more expensive coolants. As a result water cooling of the earthed electrode is a straight forward and established technique which involves flowing water through the electrode and cooling of the R.F. electrode by heat conduction through the dielectric material separating the two.

Unfortunately, this technique is very inefficient for low capacitance gas discharge structures in which the area of overlap between the electrodes and the dielectric material is reduced. The temperature of the R.F. electrode becomes greater than that of the earthed electrode, and this leads to a non-uniform temperature distribution across the gas discharge. Direct water cooling of the R.F. electrode improves the uniformity but still presents a problem. Here the water must flow from ground potential to the R.F. electrode and back again to ground without shorting out the electrode or introducing resistive losses to the circuit.

The use of metal water pipes with insulated sections through which the water flows to and from the R.F. electrode is known, but this is only a partial solution. These capacitatively de-couple the R.F. electrode from ground, but the presence of water within the insulated sections represents a lossy dielectric at R.F. and results in a reduction of the overall Q of the R.F. circuit.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser in which uniform cooling of both the R.F. electrode and the ground electrode is achieved.

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser comprising an R.F. electrode, a ground electrode and a coolant carrying pipe carried by said R.F. electrode and adapted in use to be connected at each end to coolant source or drain at ground potential, characterised in that the coolant carrying pipe is inductively decoupled at each end from ground potential and has a wall thickness many times greater than the "R.F. skin depth" at the R.F. frequency of operation.

Preferably, the coolant carrying pipe is comprised of a metal.

The coolant carrying pipe may be secured to the surface of the electrode in thermal contact therewith. However, as a practical alternative to this the coolant carrying pipe, or at least a portion of it, may actually comprise the R.F. electrode.

Each end of the coolant carrying pipe comprises an inductive element in it the impedance of which is such, at the R.F. frequency of operation, to decouple the section of coolant carrying pipe therebetween from ground potential. The inductive element may comprise one or more coils wound in the coolant carrying pipe itself, or a straight section of the pipe if this has sufficient inductance.

In a preferred embodiment of the present invention the R.F. discharge excited gas laser comprises a tubular ground electrode and a coaxially aligned metal coolant carrying pipe which is connected to and supported by the ground electrode at each end, wherein a middle section of said coolant carrying pipe comprises an R.F. electrode and the end sections thereof comprise inductive elements which inductively decouple the R.F. electrode from the ground electrode.

Conveniently, the tubular ground electrode and the metal coolant carrying pipe define an annular discharge but the technique is equally applicable to other configurations and geometries.

Preferably, a capacitor is connected in parallel with each end section of the coolant carrying pipe comprising the inductive element and is tuned to parallel resonance with the inductive element at the R.F. frequency of operation.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser comprising a hollow metal tube having a first surface defining an R.F. electrode and a second surface, opposite the first, defining a ground electrode, wherein the side walls of the tube separating the first and second surfaces thereof are predominantly inductive and have a high impedance at the R.F. frequency of operation, thereby decoupling the R.F. electrode from ground.

It will be appreciated that in the gas discharge structure according to the second aspect of the present invention heat is readily and uniformly dissapated through the walls of the metal tube. However, if cooling by convection is not adequate in the particular circumstances the ground electrode can be cooled using conventional cooling techniques and the R.F. electrode can be cooled by means of an inductively decoupled coolant carrying pipe according to the first aspect of the present invention.

Preferably, the hollow metal tube is of square or rectangular section.

Preferably, slots are cut in the side walls of the hollow metal tube to increase the inductance thereof. These slots also serve to enhance the ability of the gas discharge structure to dissipate heat in that air or gas can circulate within the structure and cool it by convection.

External capacitors may be connected in parallel with the inductive side walls of the structure in order to form a parallel resonant circuit at the R.F. frequency of operation. This serves to further increase the decoupling of the R.F. electrode from the ground electrode, facilitates impedance matching of the structure with the R.F. generator and modifies the voltage distribution along the R.F. electrode.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be dscribed, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:-

  • Fig. 1 shows a schematic view of a gas discharge structure in accordance with the first aspect of the present invention;
  • Fig. 2 shows a schematic modification of the cooling water pipe used in the gas discharge structure of Fig. 1;
  • Fig. 3 shows a schematic view of a further gas discharge structure in accordance withe the first aspect of the present invention;
  • Fig. 4 shows a schemative view of a gas discharge structure in accordance with the second aspect of the present invention, and
  • Fig. 5 shows schematic view of a further gas discharge structure in accordance with the second aspect of the present invention.

Referring to Fig. 1 of the accompanying drawings there is shown a schematice view of a capacitative gas discharge structure comprising an R.F. electrode 1 and a ground electrode 2 separated by dielectric material 3. Although not shown, the ground electrode 2 is water cooled. Thus far described the gas discharge structure is identical to the prior art gas discharge structure described in the introduction to this specification.

Clamped to the R.F. electrode 1 is an all metal pipe 4 which in use carries cooling water. The ends of the pipe 4 define coils 5 before passing to ground potential at the water supply and water drain (not shown). The coils 5 form inductive elements, the values of which present a high impedance at R.F. and inductively decouple the R.F. electrode 1 from ground. Although these inductive elements are shown as being formed by coils 5 in the ends of the pipe 4, it will be readily apparent that pipe 4 of itself may have sufficient impedance to inductively decouple the R.F. electrode 1 from ground without it being necessary to include coils 5. The inductive elements of the pipe 4 may conveniently replace one or more of the external inductors which are connected across the two electrodes 1, 2 to both match the impedance of the gas discharge structure to that of the R.F. generator (not shown) and to modify the voltage distribution along electrode 1.

Since the water flowing through the pipe 4 is completely enclosed by the metal envelope of the pipe 4 there is no electrical connection between the R.F. and the water flowing therein. In this respect, the R.F. is constrained to travel within a thin outer skin of the pipe 4 the thickness of which is chosen to be many times greater than the "R.F. skin depth" at the frequency of interest (this characteristic of R.F. to travel through the skin of a conductor is already well known to those skilled in the art.)

Using the gas discharge structure of the first aspect of the present invention heat can be efficiently removed from the R.F. electrode without introducing losses to the overall system. Whilst water is the preferred collant it will be readily appreciated that other coolants may equally well be used in its place.

Referring now to Fig. 2 of the accompanying drawings there is shown a shematic modification of the gas discharge structure of Fig. 1 and more specifically to the inductive element of the pipe 4. In this respect a capacitor 6 is connected in parallel with the inductive element at each end of the pipe 4, whether this be in the form of a coil 5 or a straight section of pipe 4. The capacitor 6 significantly increases the effective impedance at each end of the pipe 4 and hence, the decoupling, and is particularly useful where the inductance of the pipe 4 is low. In addition, it also improves voltage distribution along the pipe 4 where the impedance of the pipe 4 is low. The overall impedance of the gas discharge structure may retain its original capacitative component and any modifications of this component may proceed as for a prior art gas discharge structure.

Referring now to Fig. 3 of the accompanying drawings there is shown a gas discharge structure in which the live electrode comprises the middle section 7 of a metal water pipe 8 and the ground electrode comprises a cylindrical tube 9 which supports the pipe 8 at each end. It will be readily apparent that the cylindrical tube 9 connects both ends of the pipe 8 to ground. However, a capacitor 10 is connected across each end section 11 of the pipe 8 which is selected to form a parallel resonant circuit with the inductive element of the pipe end section 11 at R.F. In this way the middle section 7 of pipe 8 is effectively decoupled from ground as far as R.F. applied to the middle section 7 is concerned (e.g. R.F applied at point X) and thus forms the R.F. electrode. An R.F. discharge can be formed between the R.F. electrode and any convenient earth plane.

As will be readily apparent, the metal water pipe 8 can be water cooled in much the same way as in the gas discharge structure of Fig. 1 Here again, R.F. only travels in a thin outer skin of the pipe 8 and there is no electrical connection between the water in the pipe 8 and the R.F. Should the inductance of each straight end section 11 be insufficient the inductance can be increased by putting one or more coils in the section. The ground electrode, that is to say the cylindrical tube 9 can be directly water cooled if necessary.

The gas discharge structure of fig. 3 is fabricated completely from metal and needs no dielectric to separate the R.F. electrode from the ground electrode. As such it is extremely rugged, cheap to produce and offers efficient symmetrical cooling of the gas discharge.

Referring now to Fig. 4 of the accompanying drawings there is shown a schematic view of a gas discharge structure in accordance with the second aspect of the present invention. The gas discharge structure comprises a simple hollow tube 12 of square or rectangular cross-section. The upper surface 13 of the tube 12 comprises the R.F. electrode and the lower surface 14 comprises the ground electrode. The side walls 15 of the tube 12, which connect the R.F. electrode and ground electrode together, are predominantly inductive at R.F. and to this end slots 16 are cut in the side walls 15 to increase their inductance.

This gas discharge structure is particularly interesting in that it represents the inductive equivalent of the prior art capacitative structure discussed in the introduction to this specification. The impedance of the structure can be represented by a resistive component, due to the resistance of the gas discharge, in parallel with an inductive component due to the natural inductance of the structure.

The impedance is given by:-

where W is the angular frequency of the R.F. signal, L is the natural inductance of the gas discharge structure and R is the resistance of the gas dischage. The presence of the (+j) term indicates that the structure has an inductive rather than a capacitative component to its impedance.

Gas discharge occurs within the metal tube 12 and the R.F. electrode and the ground electrode are cooled symmetrically by the side walls 15. Cooling of the structure is also enhanced by the slots 16 cut in the side walls 15 which allow air or gas to circulate within the structure and cooling by convention to take place.

Referring now to fig. 5 there is shown a modified version of the gas discharge structure of Fig. 4 in which external capacitors 17 have been connected in parallel with the inductive side walls 15 of the tube 12 to modify the inductive component of the resulting impedance. This is done to further decouple the R.F. electrode from the ground electrode, to facilitate impedance matching with the R.F. generator and to locally modify the voltage distribution along the R.F. electrode. As with the external inductors of the prior art capacitative gas discharge structure these external capacitors 17 may be either localised at preferred points along the gas discharge structure or uniformly distributed.


Anspruch[en]
  • 1. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser comprising an R.F. electrode (1) and a ground electrode (2), characterised in that the R.F. electrode (1) comprises a coolant carrying pipe (4) which is adapted, in use, to be connected at each end to a coolant source or drain at ground potential, is inductively decoupled at each end from ground potential, and has a wall thickness many times greater than the "R.F. skin depth" at the R.F. frequency of operation.
  • 2. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 1, characterised in that the coolant carrying pipe (4) is comprised of metal.
  • 3. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 2, characterised in that each end of the coolant carrying pipe comprises an inductive element (5,11) the impedance of which is such, at the R.F. frequency of operation, to decouple the section of coolant carrying pipe (4) therebetween from ground potential.
  • 4. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 3, characterised in that at least one coil (5) is wound in each end of the coolant carrying pipe (4) to comprise said inductive element.
  • 5. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 3, characterised in that each inductive element is comprised of a straight section of pipe (11)
  • 6. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to any preceding claim, characterised in that a capacitor (6,10) is connected in parallel with each inductive element (5,11) and is tuned to parallel resonance with the inductive element at the R.F. frequency of operation.
  • 7. A gas dishcarge sturcture for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to any preceding claim, characterised in that the coolant carrying pipe (4) is secured to the surface of the R.F. electrode (1).
  • 8. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to any of claims 1 to 7, characterised in that the coolant carrying pipe (8), or at least a portion of it, comprises the R.F. electrode (1).
  • 9. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 8, characterised in that said structure comprises a tubular ground electrode (9) and a coaxially aligned metal coolant carrying pipe (8) which is connected to and supported by the ground electrode (9) at each end, wherein a middle section (7) of said coolant carrying pipe (8) comprises the R.F. electrode and the end sections (11) thereof comprise inductive elements which inductively decouple the R.F. electrode from the ground electrode (9).
  • 10. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 9, characterised in that the tubular ground electrode (9) and the metal coolant carrying pipe (8) define an annular discharge region therebetween.
  • 11. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser characterised in that said structure comprises a hollow metal tube (12) having a first surface (13) defining an R.F. electrode and a second surface (14) opposite the first, defining a ground electrode, wherein the side walls (15) of the tube separating the first and second surfaces (13,14) thereof are predominantly inductive and have a high impedence at the R.F. frequency of operation, thereby decoupling the R.F. electrode from ground.
  • 12. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 11, characterised in that slots (16) are cut in the side walls (15) of the hollow metal tube (12) to increase the inductance thereof.
  • 13. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 11 or 12, characterised in that the hollow metal tube (12) is of square or rectangular section.
  • 14. A gas discharge structure for an R.F. discharge excited gas laser according to claim 11, 12 or 13, characterised in that external capacitors (17) are connected in parallel with the inductive side walls of the structure in order to form a parallel resonant circuit at the R.F. frequency of operation.






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