Plasma propagation in a single bead DBD reactor at different dielectric constants: insights from fluid modelling

W.Z. Wang*, T. Butterworth, A. Bogaerts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Packed bed dielectric barrier discharge (PB-DBD) plasma reactors are very promising for various plasma catalysis applications, but the exact mechanisms of plasma-catalyst interaction are far from understood, because the plasma discharge and catalyst/packing properties are mutually dependent. To better understand the effect of packing dielectric material on the electrical plasma properties, we study here a single bead DBD plasma reactor operating in dry air, with beads of different dielectric constant and for different applied voltages, by means of fluid modelling validated by optical imaging experiments. Our study reveals that the plasma in the single bead DBD reactor can manifest itself in two different modalities, i.e. (a) polar discharges at the bead poles in contact with the electrodes, and (b) a streamer discharge caused by surface ionization waves, which bridges the gas gap. Beads with high dielectric constant result in localised electric field enhancement and hence yield a reduction of the applied voltage required for plasma production. At low applied voltage, the discharge appears as polar discharges between the bead and the electrodes, and upon higher voltage it undergoes a transition into a bridging streamer discharge. The transition voltage to the streamer mode rises for beads with higher dielectric constant. These observations are important for plasma catalysis applications. A higher dielectric constant yields a higher electric field and thus higher average electron energy and density, giving rise to more reactive species, but it also yields a confined discharge near the contact points of packing beads, limiting the interaction area between the catalyst and the active plasma species. In addition, our model reveals that the dielectric bead behaves as a capacitor and traps charges, which can explain the significant occurrence of partial discharging in PB-DBDs and non-parallelogram shaped Lissajous plots. Hence, equivalent circuit modelling of PB-DBDs should take into account the role of packing beads in charge trapping as a capacitor.
Original languageEnglish
Article number214004
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physics D-Applied Physics
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2021


  • applied voltage
  • dielectric constant
  • fluid modelling
  • optical imaging
  • plasma catalysis
  • single bead DBD
  • streamer propagation


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