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AMORPHIC DIAMOND FILM FLAT FIELD
This application is a divisional of Ser. No. 08/071,157, filed Jun. 2,1993, which is a continuation-in-part of Ser. No. 07/851,701, which was filed on Mar. 16,1992, entitled "Flat Panel Display Based on Diamond Thin Films" which applications are hereby incorporated herein by reference.
TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates, in general, to flat field emission cathodes and, more particularly, to such cathodes which employ an amorphic diamond film having a plurality of emission sites situated on a flat emission surface.
BACKGROUND OF THE BSrVENTTON
Field emission is a phenomenon which occurs when an electric field proximate the surface of an emission material narrows a width of a potential barrier existing at the surface of the emission material. This allows a quantum tunnelling effect to occur, whereby electrons cross through the potential barrier and are emitted from the material. This is as opposed to thermionic emission, whereby thermal energy within an emission material is sufficient to eject electrons from the material. Thermionic emission is a classical phenomenon, whereas field emission is a quantum mechanical phenomenon.
The field strength required to initiate field emission of electrons from the surface of a particular material depends upon that material's effective "work function." Many materials have a positive work function and thus require a relatively intense electric field to bring about field emission. Some materials do, in fact, have a low work function, or even a negative electron afBnity, and thus do not require intense fields for emission to occur. Such materials may be deposited as a thin film onto a conductor, resulting in a cathode with a relatively low threshold voltage required to produce electron emissions.
In prior art devices, it was desirable to enhance field emission of electrons by providing for a cathode geometry which focussed electron emission at a single, relatively sharp point at a tip of a conical cathode (called a micro-tip cathode). These micro-tip cathodes, in conjunction with extraction grids proximate the cathodes, have been in use for years in field emission displays.
For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,857,799, which issued on Aug. 15, 1989, to Spindt et al., is directed to a matrixaddressed flat panel display using field emission cathodes. The cathodes are incorporated into the display backing structure, and energize corresponding camodoluminescent areas on a face plate. The face plate is spaced 40 microns from the cathode arrangement in the preferred embodiment, and a vacuum is provided in the space between the plate and cathodes. Spacers in the form of legs interspersed among the pixels maintain the spacing, and electrical connections for the bases of the cathodes are diffused sections through the backing structure. Spindt et al. employ a plurality of microtip field emission cathodes in a matrix arrangement, the tips of the cathodes aligned with apertures in an extraction grid over the cathodes. With the addition of an anode over the extraction grid, the display described in Spindt et al. is a triode (three terminal) display.
Unfortunately, micro-tips employ a structure which is difficult to manufacture, since the micro-tips have fine
geometries. Unless the micro-tips have a consistent geometry throughout the display, variations in emission from tip to tip will occur, resulting in unevenness in iUumination of the display. Furthermore, since manufacturing tolerances are 5 relatively tight, such micro-tip displays are expensive to make.
For years, others have directed substantial effort toward solving the problem of creating cathodes which can be mass manufactured to tight tolerances, allowing them to perform
10 with accuracy and precision. Another object of some of these prior art inventions was that they made use of emission materials having a relatively low effective work function so as to minimize extraction field strength. One such effort is documented in U.S. Pat. No. 3,947,716,
15 which issued on Mar. 30,1976, to Fraser, Jr. et al., directed to a field emission tip on which a metal adsorbent has been selectively deposited. In a vacuum, a clean field emission tip is subjected to heating pulses in the presence of an electrostatic field to create thermal field build up of a selected
20 plane. Emission patterns from this selected plane are observed, and the process of heating the tip within the electrostatic field is repeated until emission is observed from the desired plane. The adsorbent is then evaporated onto the tip. The tip constructed by this process is selectively faceted
25 with the emitting planar surface having a reduced work function and the non-emitting planar surface as having an increased work function. A metal adsorbent deposited on the tip so prepared results in a field emitter tip having substantially improved emission characteristics. Unfortunately, as
30 previously mentioned, such micro-tip cathodes are expensive to produce due to their fine geometries. Also, since emission occurs from a relatively sharp tip, emission is still somewhat inconsistent from one cathode to another. Such disadvantages become intolerable when many cathodes are
35 employed in great numbers such as in a flat panel display for a computer.
As is evident in the above-described cathode structure, an important attribute of good cathode design is to minimize the work function of the material constituting the cathode. In
40 fact, some substances such as alkali metals and elemental carbon in the form of diamond crystals display a low effective work function. Many inventions have been directed to finding suitable geometries for cathodes employing negative electron affinity substances as a coating for the cathode.
45 For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 3,970,887, which issued on Jul. 20,1976, to Smith et al., is directed to a microminiature field emission electron source and method of manufacturing the same wherein a single crystal semiconductor substrate is processed in accordance with known integrated microelec
50 tronic circuit techniques to produce a plurality of integral, single crystal semiconductor raised field emitter tips at desired field emission cathode sites on the surface of a substrate in a manner such that the field emitters tips are integral with the single crystal semiconductor substrate. An
55 insulating layer and overlying conductive layer may be formed in the order named over the semiconductor substrate and provided with openings at the field emission locations to form micro-anode structures for the field emitter tip. By initially appropriately doping the semiconductor substrate to
6o provide opposite conductivity-type regions at each of the field emission locations and appropriately forming the conductive layer, electrical isolation between the several field emission locations can be obtained. Smith et al. call for a sharply-tipped cathode. Thus, the cathode disclosed in Smith
65 et al. is subject to the same disadvantages as Fraser, Jr. et al. U.S. Pat. No. 4307,507, which issued on Dec. 29, 1981, to Gray et al., is directed to a method of manufacturing a