A microplasma suitable for material processing at atmospheric pressure in argon and argon-oxygen mixtures is being studied here. The microplasma is ignited by a high voltage dc pulse and sustained by low power (1-5 W) at 450 MHz. the mechanisms responsible for sustaining the microplasma require a more detailed analysis, which will be the subject of further study. Here it is shown that the microplasma is in nonequilibrium and appears to be in glow mode. The effect of power and oxygen content is also analyzed in terms of gas temperature and electron temperature. Both the gas temperature and the electron temperature have been determined by spectral emission and for the latter a very simple method has been used based on a collisional-radiative model. It is observed that power coupling is affected by a combination of factors and that prediction and control of the energy flow are not always straightforward even for simple argon plasmas. Varying gas content concentration has shown that oxygen creates a preferential energy channel towards increasing the gas temperature. Overall the results have shown that combined multiple diagnostics are necessary to understand plasma characteristics and that spectral emission can represent a valuable tool for tailoring microplasma to specific processing requirements. (c) 2007 American Institute of Physics.