USA flag logo/image

An Official Website of the United States Government

The Use of Boron Nitride for Improved Cold-Cathode Electron Field Emission…

Award Information

Department of Defense
Air Force
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2003 / STTR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
ElectroDynamic Applications, Inc.
P.O. Box 131460 Ann Arbor, MI 48113-1460
View profile »
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: Yes
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2003
Title: The Use of Boron Nitride for Improved Cold-Cathode Electron Field Emission Technology
Agency / Branch: DOD / USAF
Contract: F49620-03-C-0090
Award Amount: $99,992.00


Low-power Hall thrusters offer potentially important advantages for certain military applications but issues of lifetime and efficiency degradation at lower powers are issues hindering its utilization. A factor impacting efficiency is that thestate-of-the-art techniques for electron generation used for neutralization (such as hollow cathodes operating on the same propellant as the thruster) do not scale down in mass, power, and propellant consumption as readily as the miniaturized thrustersthemselves. This proposal outlines a possible solution utilizing Boron Nitride (BN), a chemically inert, tough, low work-function material, for improved cold-cathode electron field emission technology. The desirable characteristics of leading electronemission materials such as molybdenum tips and Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) are well known. However, the chemical reactivity of these materials, especially carbon, in oxidizing environ-ments presents significant limitations with respect to their application inHall thrusters and other propulsion technologies (both operational and handling factors). The propellantless nature of this approach eliminates the neutralizer as a degrading factor for efficiency and its superior material properties offer the possibilityof long lifetime operation. Producing a cold-cathode emitter using boron nitride would have application across the field of electric propulsion including thrusters and tethers. It could provide a long-life emitter that would not require a propellant andcould replace hollow cathodes and enable lower-power thrusters. Further developing boron nitride has applications beyond propulsion. Both phases of BN are chemically inert, highly insulating (if not doped), very good thermal conductors, and chemicallystable up to high temperatures. In addition, c-BN is very hard, and can be made semiconducting by doping with n- or p-type dopants.

Principal Investigator:

Jon Van Noord
Senior Engineer

Business Contact:

Alec Gallimore
CEO/ Chief Engineer
Small Business Information at Submission:

Electrodynamic Applications, Inc.
P.O. Box 131460 Ann Arbor, MI 48113

EIN/Tax ID: 383479349
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Research Institution Information:
Div of Research Devel & Admin, Room 1058; 3003 So. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Contact: Kathryn A. Dewitt
Contact Phone: (734) 763-6438
RI Type: Nonprofit college or university