We numerically predicted the spatial distribution of Ar metastables in an inductively coupled plasma (ICP) source; this distribution may be an indicator of the behavior of long-lived neutral radicals in a reactive plasma. We investigated the effect of metastables on the sustaining mechanism in ICP in Ar. The predicted two-dimensional profile of Ar metastables agreed reasonably well with experimental results. The transition of the sustaining mechanism from direct ionization to stepwise ionization is found as a function of input power at 50 mTorr. In addition, a strong hysteresis of plasma density is predicted between the increasing and decreasing phases of the input power based on the stepwise ionization of Ar metastables in the ICP.
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