Penning gas mixture
A Penning gas mixture consists of a rare gas containing impurity atoms possibly at very low concentrations. The impurity atoms have an ionization potential \(V_{\text{ion}}\) which is lower than or equal to the metastable potential (\(V_{\text{meta}}\)) of the parent noble gas. The Penning effect in a Penning gas mixture is the ionization by charge transfer (charge exchange) during collision between a metastable atom and a neutral atom which decreases the average energy to form an ion pair, e.g.
In a glow discharge, this results in an increase of the the ionization coefficient (Townsend first coefficient), a decrease in breakdown potential and a lowering of the cathode fall potential. The magnetic Penning effect describes the increase of the ionization probability of gas in a low pressure electrical discharge resulting from the helical (spiral) movement of electrons in a magnetic field placed normal to the anode-cathode electrical field.
Orange Book,2nd ed., p. 148