The discharge mechanism of pulsed atmospheric pressure glow discharges excited by the unipolar positive voltage pulses between two parallel plate electrodes with or without one dielectric barrier on the ground electrode in flowing helium has been characterized by nanosecond time resolved optical and electrical measurements. The uniform glow discharges can only be achieved when the voltage pulse duration is less than 1μs with bare electrodes. With introducing a dielectric barrier on the ground electrode, a model of electrons traveling on the background ions between two discharge events is proposed to explain the discharge mechanism and characteristics in terms of discharge ignition, discharge spatial profile and discharge current amplitude.

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