In this work, the nitrogen molecular dissociation level in Ar/N2 surface-wave plasma is evaluated as a function of plasma parameters such as Ar percentage in the gas mixture, power absorbed in the plasma, and total pressure in order to design an efficient N-atom source that can be used for various applications such as thin-film deposition and materials surface modification. This plasma is operated at 40.68 MHz and the nitrogen dissociation rate is determined, in the remote plasma, by analyzing the optical emission of the first positive molecular nitrogen band. For all operating conditions, the dissociation rate ([N]/[N2]) of N2 molecules was enhanced, as the percentage of Ar in the mixture increased from 0 to ∼95%, and dissociation rates higher than 2.5% were measured. This gain in the dissociation rate became more pronounced when the plasma power and total pressure increased from 40 to 120 W and from 4 to 7.5 Torr, respectively. These results are discussed in terms of the kinetics of the electrons, nitrogen atoms, and molecules and confirm theoretical kinetic models presented in the literature. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.