Determination of the levitation limits of dust particles within the sheath in complex plasma experiments
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Experiments are performed in which dust particles are levitated at varying heights above the powered electrode in a radio frequency plasma discharge by changing the discharge power. The trajectories of particles dropped from the top of the discharge chamber are used to reconstruct the vertical electric force acting on the particles. The resulting data, together with the results from a self-consistent fluid model, are used to determine the lower levitation limit for dust particles in the discharge and the approximate height above the lower electrode where quasineutrality is attained, locating the sheath edge. These results are then compared with current sheath models. It is also shown that particles levitated within a few electron Debye lengths of the sheath edge are located outside the linearly increasing portion of the electric field.