Open Access Nano Express

Enhanced field electron emission properties of hierarchically structured MWCNT-based cold cathodes

Loïck-Alexandre Gautier1, Vincent Le Borgne1, Samir Al Moussalami2 and My Ali El Khakani1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Centre Énergie, Matériaux et Télécommunications, 1650 Blvd. Lionel–Boulet, Varennes, Quebec J3X-1S2, Canada

2 pDevices Inc, 75 Blvd. de Mortagne, Suite 108, Boucherville, Quebec J4B 6Y4, Canada

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2014, 9:55  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-55

Published: 1 February 2014


Hierarchically structured MWCNT (h-MWCNT)-based cold cathodes were successfully achieved by means of a relatively simple and highly effective approach consisting of the appropriate combination of KOH-based pyramidal texturing of Si (100) substrates and PECVD growth of vertically aligned MWCNTs. By controlling the aspect ratio (AR) of the Si pyramids, we were able to tune the field electron emission (FEE) properties of the h-MWCNT cathodes. Indeed, when the AR is increased from 0 (flat Si) to 0.6, not only the emitted current density was found to increase exponentially, but more importantly its associated threshold field (TF) was reduced from 3.52 V/μm to reach a value as low as 1.95 V/μm. The analysis of the J-E emission curves in the light of the conventional Fowler-Nordheim model revealed the existence of two distinct low-field (LF) and high-field (HF) FEE regimes. In both regimes, the hierarchical structuring was found to increase significantly the associated βLF and βHF field enhancement factors of the h-MWCNT cathodes (by a factor of 1.7 and 2.2, respectively). Pyramidal texturing of the cathodes is believed to favor vacuum space charge effects, which could be invoked to account for the significant enhancement of the FEE, particularly in the HF regime where a βHF as high as 6,980 was obtained for the highest AR value of 0.6.

Vertically aligned carbon nanotubes; Plasma enhanced vacuum deposition; Hierarchical structuring; Field electron emission; Cold cathode