Field-emission cathodes containing arrays of carbon nanotubes coated with diamond or diamondlike carbon (DLC) are undergoing development. Multiwalled carbon nanotubes have been shown to perform well as electron field emitters. The idea underlying the present development is that by coating carbon nanotubes with wideband gap materials like diamond or DLC, one could reduce effective work functions, thereby reducing threshold electric-field levels for field emission of electrons and, hence, improving cathode performance. To demonstrate feasibility, experimental cathodes were fabricated by (1) covering metal bases with carbon nanotubes bound to the bases by an electrically conductive binder and (2) coating the nanotubes, variously, with diamond or DLC by plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition. In tests, the threshold electric-field levels for emission of electrons were reduced by as much as 40 percent, relative to those of uncoated nanotube cathodes. Coating with diamond or DLC could also make field emission-cathodes operate more stably by helping to prevent evaporation of carbon from nanotubes in the event of overheating of the cathodes. Cathodes of this type are expected to be useful principally as electron sources for cathode-ray tubes and flatpanel displays.

This work was done by Stevan Dimitrijevic and James C. Withers of Materials and Electrochemical Research Corp. for Johnson Space Center.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Materials and Electrochemical Research Corp.
7960 South Kolb Road
Tucson, AZ 85706
Phone: (520) 574-1980
Fax: (520) 574-1983
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to MSC-23133, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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