When voltage pulses of 1 MV drive meter long air discharges, short and intense bursts of x-rays are measured. Here we develop a model for electron acceleration and subsequent photon generation within this discharge to understand these bursts. We start from the observation that the encounter of two streamers of opposite polarity launches the electrons, that they are further accelerated in the discharge field and then lose their energy, e.g., by photon emission through Bremsstrahlung. We model electron and photon dynamics in space and energy with a Monte Carlo model. Also the detector response to incoming photons is modelled in detail. The model justifies the approximation that the x-ray bursts are isotropic in space; this assumption is used to conclude that x-ray bursts near the high-voltage electrode with 6.104 photons and characteristic energies of 160 keV closely reproduce the measured spectra and attenuation curves. The nanosecond duration of the bursts as well as their energy spectrum is consistent with model calculations.

Plasma Sources Science and Technology
Multiscale Dynamics

Kochkin, P.O, Köhn, C, Ebert, U, & van Deursen, L. (2016). Analyzing x-ray emissions from meter-scale negative discharges in ambient air. Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 25(4). doi:10.1088/0963-0252/25/4/044002