Could This Be the Future of Vacuum Tubes? - diyAudio
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Old 8th March 2013, 07:56 PM   #1
Magz is offline Magz  United States
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Default Could This Be the Future of Vacuum Tubes?

A new cold electron emitter technology patented by NIST produces an electron flow comparable to a thermionic source but with many advantages.

According to co-inventor Fred Sharifi, the new field emitters have inherently fast response times compared with thermionic sources, and the absence of heat makes it easier to create arrays of sources. Moreover, the porous nanostructure of the emitters makes them very reliable. Even if the emitter surface wears away during use—a common problem—the newly exposed material continues to work just as well.

Could this usher in a new era of filament-less vacuum tube analogues? Tubes on a chip?


Electron field emitter technology to improve imaging, communications
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Old 8th March 2013, 09:02 PM   #2
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Interesting read, thanks for sharing
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Old 8th March 2013, 09:28 PM   #3
Magz is offline Magz  United States
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BTW, if you click the link at the bottom of the article you can get a PDF of the actual Nanotechnology paper.
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Old 8th March 2013, 09:57 PM   #4
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Sounds like a MosFet to me!
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Old 8th March 2013, 10:28 PM   #5
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defnately not MOSFETs, but probably not available in diy friendly packages either way since it's intended use is microwave and other high freq nano stuff.
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Old 8th March 2013, 11:38 PM   #6
Magz is offline Magz  United States
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The basic technology is available for licensing to anyone who wants to pay the fee and is interested in working this up into an amplifier "tube". Will it be the most lucrative potential application? Most likely not, but the concept of combining the emitter with a control grid and an anode to form a triode is feasible.

So now all we need is a tube sound-lover who happens to own a chip fabrication plant and wants to try it out...I'm not giving up my tubes just yet.
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Old 8th March 2013, 11:44 PM   #7
Pano is offline Pano  United States
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Didn't this stuff come out in the 1980s? Didn't we just have a thread about it?
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Old 9th March 2013, 12:07 AM   #8
Magz is offline Magz  United States
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I think the new wrinkle is the current capability, 6A/sqcm, using SiC substrate.

I haven't seen a thread on it, but it's possible I suppose.
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Old 9th March 2013, 01:41 AM   #9
JMFahey is offline JMFahey  Argentina
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Yes, current capability is impressive, higher than in a regular hot cathode tube.
And at a very low "plate" voltage, they mention 7V.
What they don't say is whether that emission was into vacuum or some kind of gas, nor how could it be controlled (I mean beyond simple "plate voltage" variation).
So far they describe (not too clearly) something akin to a tube diode.
X-Ray tubes, by the way, are exactly that
And Magnetrons are close , if weird, cousins.

Clearly they see no future in triodes or tubes in general but in X-Rays, Phosphorescent displays, etc., and maybe "cold, low voltage fluorescent tubes".
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Old 9th March 2013, 01:01 PM   #10
Magz is offline Magz  United States
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The researchers are from NIST and a university; their business is the research, to develop new enabling technologies and license them to other folks who can build on them and create commercial products. I'm sure the technologies they named were simply where they thought the market would be. If someone showed interest in licensing the technology to produce triodes, they'd add that to the application list.

The first vacuum tubes were also diodes, until Lee DeForest introduced a grid between the anode and cathode to create the Audion. It doesn't seem like a big stretch to do the same on a chip scale.
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