Electron Beam Production by Pyroelectric Crystals

Research paper by James D. Brownridge, Stephen M. Shafroth

Indexed on: 20 Sep '02Published on: 20 Sep '02Published in: Physics - Plasma Physics


Pyroelectric crystals are used to produce self-focused electron beams with energies greater than 170 keV. No high voltage power supply or electron gun is needed. The system works by simply changing the temperature of a crystal of LiNbO3 or LiTaO3 by about 100oC in dilute gas. Electron beam energy spectra as well as positive-ion-beam energy spectra and profiles are shown. A change in the crystal temperature of 100oC will cause a spontaneous change in polarization. The change in polarization will be manifested by a change in charge on the surface of the crystal. It is this uncompensated charge that produces the electric field, which accelerates the electrons, or the positive ions and gives rise to the plasma, which in turn focuses them. The source of the accelerated electrons or positive ions is gas molecules ionized near the crystal surface. When the crystal surface is negative electrons are accelerated away from it and positive ions are attracted to the surface. These positive ions reduce the net negative charge on the surface thereby reducing the electric field, which causes the electron energy to decrease over time even though the focal properties remain unchanged. When the surface is positive the reverse obtains and the positive ion beam energy decreases over time as well. We will present video clips, photographic and electronic data that demonstrate many of the characteristics and applications of these electron beams.