A Thermodynamic Analysis of Nonequilibrium Argon Plasma Torches

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The nonequilibrium process of argon plasma torches is analyzed theoretically. Thermodynamic diagrams of different degrees of ionization are developed to aid in understanding and analyzing the transition from chemical equilibrium to frozen flow in dc plasma torch operations. A thermodynamic model is developed to describe the nonequilibrium processes in a dc argon plasma torch. In the model the ionization process is approximated as a constant-pressure heating process, with little deviation from the equilibrium state upon completion of heating. If the plasma flow is frozen shortly after heating, the entropy increase is small during the transition from equilibrium to frozen flow. In this case the frozen flow will have nearly the same composition and entropy as the flow at the heating section exit. For singly ionized argon plasmas in the entropy range relevant to dc torch operation, the frozen flow solutions on the affinity–pressure diagram are found to be insensitive to entropy change. Therefore the present model predicts that argon plasmas generated at different power levels will have almost identical affinity at the torch exit for the same operating pressure. This prediction agrees with experimental observations except for very low torch power levels.

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