Critical (Burst) electron emission from dielectrics, induced by injection of a dense electron beam

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A dense pulsed electron beam and nanosecond pulse length has been used to inject negative electric charge into various dielectric materials (single crystals, glasses, composites, plastics) for initiation of electron field emission from the dielectric into a vacuum. It has been shown that upon reaching a critical electric field in the bulk and at the dielectric surface there is intense critical electron emission. The local current density from the emission centers reaches a record value (for dielectrics) of the order of 106 A/cm2. The emission occurs in the form of a single gigantic pulse. The measured amplitude of the emission current averaged over the emitting surface is the same order of magnitude as the injected electron current: 10-1000 A. The emission current pulse lags behind the current pulse of the primary electron beam injected into the sample. The delay time is in the range 1-20 nsec and decreases with increasing current density of the injected beam. Direct experimental evidence is found for intense generation of carriers (band or quasifree electrons) in the near-surface layer of the dielectric in a strong electric field due to the Frenkel-Poole effect and collisional ionization of traps, usually various donor levels. This process greatly strengthens the field emission from the dielectric. It has been shown experimentally that the emission is nonuniform and is accompanied by “point bursts” at the surface of the dielectric and ionized plasma spikes in the vacuum interval. These spikes are the main reason that the transition of the field emission into "bursts" is critical, similar to the current which has been previously observed in metals and semiconductors. However there are a number of substantial differences. For example the critical field emission current density needed for the transition into “bursts” is three orders of magnitude less than for metals. If we provide sufficient electron current at the surface or from the bulk of the dielectric to the emission centers, then the critical emission is always accompanied by a vacuum discharge between the surface of the dielectric and a metallic collector. A detailed computer model of the processes in the dielectric during injection of a high-density electron beam has been developed which allows one to understand the complex physical pattern of the phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1064-1082
Number of pages19
JournalRussian Physics Journal
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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