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Electron Emission

Introduction

Thermionic emission

The phenomenon involves the effect of heat on the interaction between electricity and matter. This heat induced electron flow is called thermionic emission. The physical phenomena was well studied by Richardson from 1901 and he got Nobel prize in physics in 1929 for his work.

Expression for thermoionic current density J is given by Richardson equation.

J = A T2 e –ϕ / kT

Where ϕ - the work function of the material.

T-the absolute temperature

and A =4πemk2 / h3 = 1.6 ˣ 10 6 A m-2 k- is called the Rechardson’s constant.

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Abstract

Field emission (FE) (also known as field electron emission and electron field emission) is emission of electrons induced by an electrostatic field. The most common context is field emission from a solid surface into vacuum. However, field emission can take place from solid or liquid surfaces, into vacuum, air, a fluid, or any non-conducting or weakly conducting dielectric. The field-induced promotion of electrons from the valence to conduction band of semiconductors (the Zener effect) can also be regarded as a form of field emission. The terminology is historical because related phenomena of surface photoeffect, thermionic emission (or Richardson–Dushman effect) and "cold electronic emission", i.e. the emission of electrons in strong static (or quasi-static) electric fields, were discovered and studied independently from the 1880s to 1930s. When field emission is used without qualifiers it typically means "cold emission".

Field emission in pure metals occurs in high electric fields: the gradients are typically higher than 1 gigavolt per metre and strongly dependent upon the work function. While electron sources based on field emission have a number of applications, field emission is most commonly an undesirable primary source of vacuum breakdown and electrical discharge phenomena, which engineers work to prevent. Examples of applications for surface field emission include construction of bright electron sources for high-resolution electron microscopes or the discharge of induced charges from spacecraft. Devices which eliminate induced charges are termed charge-neutralizers.

Field emission was explained by quantum tunneling of electrons in the late 1920s. This was one of the triumphs of the nascent quantum mechanics. The theory of field emission from bulk metals was proposed by Ralph H. Fowler and Lothar Wolfgang Nordheim.[1] A family of approximate equations, "Fowler–Nordheim equations", is named after them. Strictly, Fowler–Nordheim equations apply only to field emission from bulk metals and (with suitable modification) to other bulk crystalline solids, but they are often used – as a rough approximation – to describe field emission from other materials.

In some respects, field electron emission is a paradigm example of what physicists mean by tunneling. Unfortunately, it is also a paradigm example of the intense mathematical difficulties that can arise. Simple solvable models of the tunneling barrier lead to equations (including the original 1928 Fowler–Nordheim-type equation) that get predictions of emission current density too low by a factor of 100 or more. If one inserts a more realistic barrier model into the simplest form of the Schrödinger equation, then an awkward mathematical problem arises over the resulting differential equation: it is known to be mathematically impossible in principle to solve this equation exactly in terms of the usual functions of mathematical physics, or in any simple way. To get even an approximate solution, it is necessary to use special approximate methods known in physics as "semi-classical" or "quasi-classical" methods. Worse, a mathematical error was made in the original application of these methods to field emission, and even the corrected theory that was put in place in the 1950s has been formally incomplete until very recently.[citation needed] A consequence of these (and other) difficulties has been a heritage of misunderstanding and disinformation that still persists in some current field emission research literature. This article tries to present a basic account of field emission "for the 21st century and beyond" that is free from these confusions.