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Arrays of Bundles of Carbon Nanotubes as Field EmittersExperiments have shown that with suitable choices of critical dimensions, planar arrays of bundles of carbon nanotubes (see figure) can serve as high-current-density field emitter (cold-cathode) electron sources. Whereas some hot-cathode electron sources must be operated at supply potentials of thousands of volts, these cold-cathode sources generate comparable current densities when operated at tens of volts. Consequently, arrays of bundles of carbon nanotubes might prove useful as cold-cathode sources in miniature, lightweight electron-beam devices (e.g., nanoklystrons) soon to be developed. Prior to the experiments, all reported efforts to develop carbon-nanotube-based field-emission sources had yielded low current densities from a few hundred microamperes to a few hundred milliamperes per square centimeter. An electrostatic screening effect, in which taller nanotubes screen the shorter ones from participating in field emission, was conjectured to be what restricts the emission of electrons to such low levels. It was further conjectured that the screening effect could be reduced and thus emission levels increased by increasing the spacing between nanotubes to at least by a factor of one to two times the height of the nanotubes. While this change might increase the emission from individual nanotubes, it would decrease the number of nanotubes per unit area and thereby reduce the total possible emission current. Therefore, to maximize the area-averaged current density, it would be necessary to find an optimum combination of nanotube spacing and nanotube height. The present concept of using an array of bundles of nanotubes arises partly from the concept of optimizing the spacing and height of field emitters. It also arises partly from the idea that single nanotubes may have short lifetimes as field emitters, whereas bundles of nanotubes could afford redundancy so that the loss of a single nanotube would not significantly reduce the overall field emission.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Other - NASA Tech Brief
Manohara, Harish
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Bronkowski, Michael
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 2007
Publication Information
Publication: NASA Tech Briefs, February 2007
Subject Category
Technology Utilization And Surface Transportation
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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