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Nanomaterials 2013, 3(3), 393-442;

Theory of Carbon Nanotube (CNT)-Based Electron Field Emitters

Moscow Power Engineering Institute, Technical University, Krasnokazarmennaya 14, Moscow 111250, Russia
National Research Center, Kurchatov Institute, Kurchatov sq. 1, Moscow 123182, Russia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 May 2013 / Revised: 24 June 2013 / Accepted: 27 June 2013 / Published: 17 July 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue CNT based Nanomaterials)


Theoretical problems arising in connection with development and operation of electron field emitters on the basis of carbon nanotubes are reviewed. The physical aspects of electron field emission that underlie the unique emission properties of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are considered. Physical effects and phenomena affecting the emission characteristics of CNT cathodes are analyzed. Effects given particular attention include: the electric field amplification near a CNT tip with taking into account the shape of the tip, the deviation from the vertical orientation of nanotubes and electrical field-induced alignment of those; electric field screening by neighboring nanotubes; statistical spread of the parameters of the individual CNTs comprising the cathode; the thermal effects resulting in degradation of nanotubes during emission. Simultaneous consideration of the above-listed effects permitted the development of the optimization procedure for CNT array in terms of the maximum reachable emission current density. In accordance with this procedure, the optimum inter-tube distance in the array depends on the region of the external voltage applied. The phenomenon of self-misalignment of nanotubes in an array has been predicted and analyzed in terms of the recent experiments performed. A mechanism of degradation of CNT-based electron field emitters has been analyzed consisting of the bombardment of the emitters by ions formed as a result of electron impact ionization of the residual gas molecules. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon nanotubes; electron field emitters carbon nanotubes; electron field emitters

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Bocharov, G.S.; Eletskii, A.V. Theory of Carbon Nanotube (CNT)-Based Electron Field Emitters. Nanomaterials 2013, 3, 393-442.

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