An accurate, non-invasive ex situ diagnostic technique for analyzing plasma generated harmonics in radio frequency (RF) discharges is presented utilizing a broadband Dual Directional Coupler (DDC) that measures accurately both forward and reflected voltage signals in a transmission line. For usual applications such as monitoring forward and reflected power, the DDC is placed between the RF generator and the matching network (MN). However, the MN reflects all plasma generated harmonics back toward the plasma. Hence, no harmonics reach the generator side of the MN. Thus, for monitoring the harmonics, it is necessary to place the DDC between the impedance matching unit and the plasma, which was used for the first time in an asymmetric, parallel plate RF discharge at 13.56 MHz, 10 W–50 W at 200 mTorr (argon). The analysis of DDC data yields voltage, harmonic power contents, complex load impedance, plasma reflection coefficient, Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR), etc., for the fundamental frequency. For instance, at 10 W net input power, the computed plasma impedance is ZL = Rp + jXp, with Rp = 16.8 Ω and Xp = −81.9 Ω, yielding VSWR ≈11. Additionally, for 50 W input power, the third harmonic (72.31 mW) is dominant, followed by the second (8.28 mW) and fourth harmonics. In contrast, the literature states that the second harmonic is usually dominant, possibly due to the invasive nature of the diagnostics. Because harmonics are an important signature of processes taking place within the plasma, the proposed diagnostic can be effectively used for calibration and verification of theoretical models/simulations for resolving relevant physics issues.
Prof. Ramesh Narayanan