• cathode surface–plasma interactions;
  • electrical breakdown;
  • secondary electron emission;
  • semiconductor cathodes

This study focuses on analyses of secondary electron emission (SEE) at semiconductor surfaces when the sufficient conditions of space–time distribution occur. Experimental measurements and calculations with the approach of Townsend coefficients, which include the evaluations of ionization coefficient (α) and SEE coefficient (γ) were performed in high-ohmic InP, GaAs, and Si semiconductor cathodes with argon and air environments in a wide range of E/N (300–10 000 Td). The direct calculations of γ were carried out to determine the behavior of cold-semiconductor cathode current in a wide range of microgaps (45–525 μm). Paschen curves are interpreted in the dependence of large pd range on breakdown voltage through γ and α/N. Ion-induced secondary electrons exhibit the direct behaviors affecting the timescale of breakdown evolution in the vicinity of the Paschen minimum during the natural bombardment process with ions of semiconductor cathodes. Also, when α/N rapidly drops and the excitations of gas atoms densely occupy the gas volume, we determined that the photoelectric effect provides a growth for electron emission from semiconductor surfaces at the breakdown stage at the reduced values of E/N. At all pressures, the emission magnitudes of electrons liberated by semiconductor cathodes into vacuum are found as γInP > γGaAs > γSi in breakdown evolution.