Low Temperature Thermionic Electron Source With Narrow Energy Spread

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0019568
Agency Tracking Number: 242574
Amount: $149,790.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 15c
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0001940
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-02-19
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2019-11-18
Small Business Information
447 Laidley St., San Francisco, CA, 94131-3037
DUNS: 080024996
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Lucas Hess
 (510) 365-2904
Business Contact
 Lucas Hess
Phone: (510) 365-2904
Email: lucas.hess@sparkthermionics.com
Research Institution
A major challenge in the field of electron microscopy is to reach energy resolution as low as 1 meV, which would improve the performance of currently used technologies and facilitate the development of novel techniques. The main roadblock limiting these developments are the currently available electron sources, which can only achieve resolution of 10 meV, an achievement that is already linked to major stability and maintenance issues. We propose to develop a radically new type of electron source based on thermionic emission near room temperature. While thermionic emission is typically a very high temperature process, we have developed a technique to lower virtually any material’s work function to levels which we propose could enable thermionic emission of electrons near room temperature. Besides the lower complexity of a room temperature emitter, lowering the temperature also results in a much narrower kinetic energy distribution compared to cold field emitters. This new type of electron source will allow microscopes to surpass current resolution limits will accelerate and enable the development of new microscopy techniques. During Phase I of the proposed project, we will (1) measure work functions of substrate-coating combinations to achieve ultra-low work functions and (2) demonstrate thermionic electron emission close to room temperature. These results will allow us to select materials for further tests and developments in Phase II of this project. As part of Phase II, we would propose to integrate these materials into a best-in-class electron source. The expected energy resolutions could transform the field of electron microscopy and not only improve existing technologies, but also facilitate the development of new techniques, such as multi-dimensional atomic scale microscopes, enhanced characterization of quantum materials, and high-speed dynamic electron microscopy methods. These novel techniques are likely to be used not only at research institutions, but could also quickly find their way into industrial applications, e.g. in the semiconductor and bioscience sectors.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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