Cold cathode operation under high current densities leads to explosive electron emission (EEE) that contributes to early A-K gap closure. Hence, inconsistent vacuum conditions and, if utilized in a high power microwave device, degradation of microwave output power are observed. The EEE centers are known to produce localized plasmas on the surface of the cathode that release and ionize the electrode material. Further, low melting point material in the anode is released due to electron bombardment accompanied by a significant surface temperature increase. Postmortem analysis has revealed particles up to 50 μ m in diameter embedded in the opposite electrode. High speed ICCD imaging during A-K gap operation enabled resolving the plasma's spatial characteristics in time. Images of cathode and anode plasma during the operation of a virtual cathode oscillator at 250 A/cm 2 under ultrahigh vacuum conditions are presented.
- Electron beam
- electron emission
- high power microwave generation
- plasma diagnostics
- virtual-cathode-oscillator (Vircator)