Abstract : The scaling up of plasma processes in the low pressure range remains a question to be solved for their rise at the industrial level. One solution is the uniform distribution of elementary plasma sources where the plasma is produced via electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) coupling. These elementary plasma sources are made up of a cylindrical permanent magnet (magnetic dipole) set at the end of a coaxial microwave line. Although of simple concept, the optimisation of these dipolar plasma sources is in fact a complex problem. It requires the knowledge , on one hand, of the configurations of static magnetic fields and microwave electric fields, and, on the other hand, of the mechanisms of plasma production in the region of high intensity magnetic field (ECR condition), and of plasma diffusion. Therefore, the experimental characterisation of the operating ranges and plasma parameters has been performed by Langmuir probes and optical emission spectroscopy on different configurations of dipolar sources. At the same time, in a first analytical approach, calculations have been made on simple magnetic field configurations, motion and trajectory of electrons in these magnetic fields, and the acceleration of electrons by ECR coupling. Then, the results have been used for the validation of the numerical modelling of the electron trajectories by using a hybrid PIC (particle-in-cell) / MC (Monte Carlo) method. The experimental study has evidenced large operating domains, between 15 and 200 W of microwave power, and from 0.5 to 15 mTorr argon pressure. The analysis of plasma parameters has shown that the region of ECR coupling is localised near the equatorial plane of the magnet and dependent on magnet geometry. These characterisations, applied to a cylindrical reactor using 48 sources, have shown that densities between 1011 and 1012 cm-3 could be achieved in the central part of the volume at a few mTorr argon pressures. The modelling of electron trajectories near the magnet has also shown a better radial confinement with magnets exhibiting high length over diameter ratios. In addition, the numerical study corroborates the results of the experimental study, i.e. an ECR coupling region close to the equatorial plane of the magnet and not near the end of the coaxial microwave line. Finally, these results have been successfully applied to plasma assisted sputtering of targets allowing, in particular, their uniform erosion.