An investigation into the circumstances leading to the production of high-energy discharges from plastic surfaces is described. Sheets of plastics ranging in thickness from 0.125 mm to 10 mm were placed on an earthed metal backing and charged using a high-voltage corona point. The results show that it is possible to obtain high-energy (or Lichtenberg type) discharges from all of the samples, whether charged positively or negatively. The onset of such discharges is determined by the magnitude of the initial stored energy per unit area of the plastic sheet and the critical value is about 12 J/m2. With the thicker samples the radius of curvature of the discharging electrode is also important, the thicker the sample the larger this has to be. The relevance of this information to the possibility of obtaining such discharges from plastic vessels containing highly charged material is discussed. © 1989.
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