A variety of carbon nanotube films have been fabricated and tested as cold cathodes. A spray deposition technique was developed for processing as-grown bulk nanotubes, both single-walled and multi-walled, into films of randomly oriented nanotubes. Films of randomly oriented multi-walled nanotubes were grown using thermal chemical vapor deposition, and arrays of well-aligned multi-walled nanotubes have been fabricated using a microwave plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition technique. The emission current-voltage (I-V) characteristics of these nanotube cathodes have been measured. Both multi-walled (random and aligned) and single-walled carbon nanotubes exhibit low turn-on fields (~ 2 V/μm to generate 1 nA) and threshold fields (< 5 V/μm to generate 10 mA/cm2). Significantly, these cathodes were capable of operation at very large current densities (> 1A/cm2), making them candidates for application in a variety of vacuum microelectronic devices.
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Bower, C., Zhou, O., Zhu, W. et al. Fabrication and Field Emission Properties of Carbon Nanotube Cathodes. MRS Online Proceedings Library 593, 215–220 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-593-215