U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A663 (2012) 64–74;



An ion source based on the principles of electrostatic field desorption is being developed to improve the performance of existing compact neutron generators. The ion source is an array of gated metal tips derived from field electron emitter array micro fabrication technology. A comprehensive summary of development and experimental activities is presented. Many structural modifications to the arrays have been incorporated to achieve higher tip operating fields, while lowering fields at the gate electrode to prevent gate field electron emission which initiates electrical breakdown in the array. The latest focus of fabrication activities has been on rounding the gate electrode edge and surrounding the gate electrode with dielectric material. Array testing results have indicated a steady progression of increased array tip operating fields with each new design tested. The latest arrays have consistently achieved fields beyond those required for the onset of deuterium desorption (͠ 20 V/nm), and have demonstrated the desorption of deuterium at fields up to 36V/nm. The number of ions desorbed from an array has been quantified, and field desorption of metal tip substrate material from array tips has been observed for the first time. Gas-phase field ionization studies with ͠ 10,000 tip arrays have achieved deuterium ion currents of ͠ 50 nA. Neutron production by field ionization has yielded ͠ 102 n/s from ͠ 1 mm2 of array area using the deuterium–deuterium fusion reaction at 90kV