Observation of Ultrathin Sc-Containing Surface Layer on Life-Tested Scandate Cathodes

Xiaotao Liu, Bernard K. Vancil, Daniel B. Durham, D. Frank Ogletree, Edward S. Barnard, T. John Balk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To explain enhanced levels of electron emission from scandate cathodes, models invoking surface layers ( $\sim $ 100 nm thick) of Ba-Sc-O, or alternatively a Ba-Sc-O monolayer, have been frequently employed to describe the lowered work function that is thought to lead to these improved emission capabilities. However, limited direct experimental proof has been provided, primarily involving Auger electron spectroscopy (AES) for depth profile analyses of elemental composition. In this article, we report direct observations of an Sc-containing surface layer on scandate cathodes, as indicated by independent, complementary measurements using scanning nanobeam AES and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) techniques. The ultrathin Sc-containing layer on these cathodes is no more than 3-4 nm thick and is likely even thinner than this. The surface layer may consist of amorphous or nanoscale polycrystalline materials, as suggested by scanning nanobeam electron diffraction and analytical mapping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2876-2882
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Transactions on Electron Devices
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 1963-2012 IEEE.


  • Electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS)
  • nano-Auger electron spectroscopy (AES)
  • nanoscale
  • scandate cathode
  • scandium
  • surface layer
  • work function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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