Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New player in electron field emitter technology makes for better imaging and communications

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland, College Park, have built a practical, high-efficiency nanostructured electron source.

Described in the journal Nanotechnology*, this new, patent-pending technology could lead to improved microwave communications and radar, and more notably to new and improved X-ray imaging systems for security and health-care applications.

While thermionic electron sources such as the hot filaments inside cathode ray tubes have largely been replaced by LEDs and liquid crystals for display screens and televisions, they are still used to produce microwaves for radar and X-rays for medical imaging. Thermionic sources use an electric current to boil electrons off the surface of a wire filament, similar to the way an incandescent light bulb uses an electric current to heat a wire filament until it glows.

And like an incandescent light bulb, thermionic sources are generally not very energy efficient. It takes a lot of power to boil off the electrons, which spew in every direction. Those that aren't lost have to be captured and focused using a complicated system of electric and magnetic fields. Field emission electron sources require much less power and produce a much more directional and easily controllable stream of electrons.

To build their field emission source, the NIST team took a tough material—silicon carbide—and used a room-temperature chemical process to make it highly porous like a sponge. They then patterned it into microscopic emitting structures in the shape of pointed rods or sharp-edged fins. When an electric field is applied, these novel field emitters can produce an electron flow comparable to a thermionic source but without all the disadvantages—and with many advantages.

According to co-inventor Fred Sharifi, the new field emitters have inherently fast response times compared with thermionic sources, and the absence of heat makes it easier to create arrays of sources. Moreover, the porous nanostructure of the emitters makes them very reliable. Even if the emitter surface wears away during use—a common problem—the newly exposed material continues to work just as well.

Sharifi says that the NIST field emitters hold the potential to enhance the resolution and quality of X-ray images and allow for new modes of detection.

"X-ray images are based on the density of the material being examined, which limits their ability to see certain types of materials, including some types of explosives," says Sharifi. "Our field emitter will let us see not just that something is there, but, because we can build large arrays and place them at different angles, we can identify the material in question by looking at how the X-rays coming from different directions scatter from the object."

The technology is available for licensing through NIST's Technology Partnerships Office.

*M. Kang, H. Lezec and F. Sharifi. Stable field emission from nanoporous silicon carbide. Nanotechnology. 24 (2013) 065201.

Mark Esser | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Gentle sensors for diagnosing brain disorders
29.09.2016 | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

nachricht New imaging technique in Alzheimer’s disease - opens up possibilities for new drug development
28.09.2016 | Lund University

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>