Scandate cathode surface characterization: Emission testing, elemental analysis and morphological evaluation

Xiaotao Liu, Qunfei Zhou, Tyler L. Maxwell, Bernard K. Vancil, Matthew J. Beck, T. John Balk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This paper describes an investigation of the surfaces of scandate cathodes that exhibited good emission characteristics during close-spaced diode testing. Morphological evaluation with electron microscopy showed that micron-sized tungsten particles constituting the cathode surface are faceted and decorated with nanoscale Ba/BaO dots, along with larger Sc2O3 and BaAl2O4 particles. The facets of tungsten grains were determined to be {100}, {110} and {112}, based on Wulff analysis of the tungsten crystal shape. Moreover, {112} facets are prevalent in the Wulff shape, which agrees with the experimentally observed facet surface areas. A hypothesis is proposed to account for the amount of metallic Ba that covers the cathode surface at operating temperatures, and which transforms during cooling of the cathode after emission testing, to form nanoscale hemispherical particles that oxidize upon air exposure. According to computation, the coverage of Ba atoms during cathode operation corresponds to 0.5 (+0.05/−0.12) monolayer, which represents full coverage of the available tungsten surface. This investigation using a range of materials characterization techniques has provided a picture of the structure and composition of scandate cathode surfaces. It is noted that these results do not support the existence of a Ba-Sc-O layer occupying the top 10–100 nm of tungsten grain surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-200
Number of pages13
JournalMaterials Characterization
StatePublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Innovative Vacuum Electronics Science and Technology (INVEST) program, under grant number N66001-16-1-4041 . The views, opinions, and/or findings expressed are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official views or policies of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government. The authors also thank Dr. Nicolas Briot and Dr. Dali Qian of the University of Kentucky Electron Microscopy Center, for helpful suggestions and stimulating discussion regarding the FIB-related work and TEM investigation, respectively.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018


  • Elemental analysis
  • Emission testing
  • Facet
  • Scandate cathode
  • Surface characterization
  • Wulff construction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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