The plasma chemistry of an argon/hydrogen expanding thermal arc plasma in interaction with silane injected downstream is analyzed using mass spectrometry. The dissociation mechanism and the consumption of silane are related to the ion and atomic hydrogen fluence emanating from the arc source. It is argued that as a function of hydrogen admixture in the arc, which has a profound decreasing effect on the ion-electron fluence emanating from the arc source, the dissociation mechanism of silane shifts from ion-electron induced dissociation towards atomic hydrogen induced dissociation. The latter case, the hydrogen abstraction of silane, leads to a dominance of the silyl (SiH3) radical whereas the ion-electron induced dissociation mechanism leads to SiHx (x<3) radicals. In the pure argon case, the consumption of silane is high and approximately two silane molecules are consumed per argon ion-electron pair. It is shown that this is caused by consecutive reactions of radicals SiHx(x<3) with silane. Almost independent of the plasma conditions used, approximately one H2 is produced per consumedSiH4 molecule. Disilane production is observed which roughly scales with the remaining silane density. Possible production mechanisms for both observations are discussed. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.