Microhollow cathode discharges may operate in different regimes depending of the discharge current. They are subject to relaxation oscillations in the so-called self-pulsing regime in which the discharge oscillates between two quasiequilibria: at low current it remains confined in the microhole whereas it expands on the cathode backside during short high-current pulses. A model based on a nonlinear discharge resistance is proposed to describe the phenomenon. The analysis of the dynamics reveals that the current pulse rises in an extremely short time while the characteristic (longer) decay time is imposed by the resistance when the discharge is expanded outside the hole. It is shown how the nonlinear discharge resistance may be inferred from the experimental current-voltage signals.

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