Résumé
The Debye sheath (also electrostatic sheath) is a layer in a plasma which has a greater density of positive ions, and hence an overall excess positive charge, that balances an opposite negative charge on the surface of a material with which it is in contact. The thickness of such a layer is several Debye lengths thick, a value whose size depends on various characteristics of plasma (e.g. temperature, density, etc.). A Debye sheath arises in a plasma because the electrons usually have a temperature on the order of magnitude or greater than that of the ions and are much lighter. Consequently, they are faster than the ions by at least a factor of . At the interface to a material surface, therefore, the electrons will fly out of the plasma, charging the surface negative relative to the bulk plasma. Due to Debye shielding, the scale length of the transition region will be the Debye length . As the potential increases, more and more electrons are reflected by the sheath potential. An equilibrium is finally reached when the potential difference is a few times the electron temperature. The Debye sheath is the transition from a plasma to a solid surface. Similar physics is involved between two plasma regions that have different characteristics; the transition between these regions is known as a double layer, and features one positive, and one negative layer. Sheaths were first described by American physicist Irving Langmuir. In 1923 he wrote: "Electrons are repelled from the negative electrode while positive ions are drawn towards it. Around each negative electrode there is thus a sheath of definite thickness containing only positive ions and neutral atoms. [..] Electrons are reflected from the outside surface of the sheath while all positive ions which reach the sheath are attracted to the electrode. [..] it follows directly that no change occurs in the positive ion current reaching the electrode. The electrode is in fact perfectly screened from the discharge by the positive ion sheath, and its potential cannot influence the phenomena occurring in the arc, nor the current flowing to the electrode.
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