Landolt-Börnstein - Group III Condensed Matter Theory of field electron emission


This chapter explains theory of field electron emission. A quantum mechanical treatment of field electron emission from a metal surface into a vacuum was developed by Fowler and Nordheim. The model assumes the conventional solid- state picture of free electrons which obey Fermi-Dirac statistics confined within a potential well. A surface potential barrier prevents the electrons from escaping the metal. In contrast to thermionic emission where electrons obtain sufficient thermal energy to overcome the surface potential barrier, in field emission the applied electric field distorts the surface potential so strongly that even unexcited electrons can leak out through it. The situation is shown schematically. Fowler and Nordheim calculated the number of electrons arriving at the surface potential barrier from inside the metal in each range of energy and solved the Schrödinger equation to find the fraction of electrons which penetrate the barrier. The validity of the theory of field emission is based not only on the agreement between experimental measurements and the Fowler-Nordheim equation but also on the agreement between calculated and measured field emission energy distributions.

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Title Theory of field electron emission
Book Title
Interaction of Radiation with Surfaces and Electron Tunneling
In Field electron emission
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Landolt-Börnstein - Group III Condensed Matter
  • G. Chiarotti
  • Authors
  • G. L. Kelwog
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