Ultraviolet Light Stimulated Water Desorption Effect on Emission Performance of Gated Field Emitter Array

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The performance of silicon gated field emission arrays (GFEAs) was characterized before and after ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. Emission and gate leakage currents were measured on 1000 × 1000 tip arrays by sweeping the gate voltage to 40 V DC with a fixed DC collector voltage of 100 V DC. UV light exposure was used to desorb water molecules from the GFEA surfaces. It was found that, before UV exposure, the gate current was 6 mA at 40 V, whereas after 70 min of UV exposure, the gate current decreased to 0.46 mA, indicating a more than ten times reduction in leakage current between the gate and the emitter. Similarly, the observed collector current was 94 μA at 40 V before exposure, and after UV exposure, the collector current increased to 1.33 mA, indicating an improvement of more than 14 times. During the experiments with UV light, residual gas analyzer measurements showed that the partial pressure for water increased by greater than ten times after 60 min of exposure and then decreased by 1 order of magnitude after 100 min of exposure. The emission and leakage current changes remained even after turning off the UV lamps for several tens of minutes; however, upon the exposure to the atmosphere for a few days, those changes reversed. The enhancement could again be observed after additional UV exposure indicating that the adsorbates (mainly water along with others) on the surface affected the leakage between gate and emitter and field emission. Based on analysis of the IV characteristics before and after UV exposure, the work function of the emitter surfaces increases while the portion of the array tips that emits expands resulting in a decrease in the calculated array tip sharpness as duller tips now emit.