Date of Award

Summer 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Director

A. A. Elmustafa

Committee Member

H. P. Bao

Committee Member

J. Z. Hao

Committee Member

S. B. Knisley


Field emission is the main mechanism that prevents DC high voltage photoemission electron guns from operating at the very high bias voltages required to produce low emittance beams. Gas conditioning is shown to eliminate field emission from cathode electrodes used inside DC high voltage photoelectron guns. Measurements and simulation results indicate that gas conditioning eliminates field emission from cathode electrodes via two mechanisms: sputtering and implantation, with the benefits of implantation reversed by heating the electrode. The field emission characteristics of 5 stainless steel electrodes varied significantly upon the initial application of voltage but improved to nearly the same level after helium and krypton gas conditioning, exhibiting less than 10 pA field emission at - 225kV bias voltage with a 50 mm cathode/anode gap, corresponding to a field strength ∼ 13 MV/m. Field emission could be reduced with either krypton or helium, but there were conditions related to gas choice, voltage and field strength that were more favorable than others.

The field emission characteristics of niobium electrodes were compared to those of stainless steel electrodes using a DC high voltage field emission test apparatus. Out of 8 electrodes (6 niobium and 2 stainless steel), the best niobium electrode performed better than the best stainless steel electrodes. Large grain niobium exhibited no measurable field emission (< 10 pA) at 225 kV with 20 mm cathode/anode gap, corresponding to a field strength of 18.7 MV/m. Surface evaluation of all electrodes suggested no correlation between the surface roughness and the field emission current.

Removing surface particulate contaminations and protrusions using an effective polishing and cleaning technique helps to prevent field emission. Mechanical polishing using silicon carbide paper and diamond paste is a common method of obtaining a mirror like surface finish on the cathode electrodes. However, it sometimes results rolled-over tips and embedded contamination. A different polishing technique was considered: electropolishing. Three stainless steel cathode electrodes with different initial surface roughness were electropolished by a commercial vendor, and evaluated inside a high voltage test stand. They exhibited less field emission than the diamond paste polished electrodes at the initial application of high voltage; but they were less receptive to ion implantation, which is a beneficial aspect of gas conditioning that serves to increase the work function of the cathode surface. Ultimately, the electropolished electrodes exhibited more field emission than diamond-paste polished electrodes.