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An in situ electron microscopy study of surface deformations resulting from cathode initiated pre-breakdown microdischarges R V Latham, E Braun*, West

Ham College of Technoiogy This electron optical investigation, at a pressure of -lo_5 torr, studied the influence of the anode material on the conditioning processes on a standard tungsten hairpin cathode in conjunction with a large plane anode. Electron shadow micrographs show the changes that occur in the surface structure of the cathode tip during and after conditioning, together with optical micrographs of the corresponding anode processes. It is found that the cathode can become decorated either by smooth hemispherical protrusions or sharp conical whiskers, depending upon the melting point, mechanical strength and gas content of the anode material. In particular, soft materials such as Al, Cu or Ni result in the smoother type of feature, whilst a hard but gassy tungsten anode gives the sharp conical feature. In all cases, optical micrographs of the anode show evidence of pitting, from which it is concluded that there is a mass transfer from anode to cathode. Of all the materials studied, stainless steel has proved to be the least vulnerable to these processes.
* Present address University of Aston in Birmingham

(4.3% 1.0) x 10 volts/cm at 0.4 ems (using an assumed work function of 4.3 eV). In addition, critical field values at constant gap were strongly dependent on the field factor, p, derived from the Fowler-Nordheim plot, critical field increasing with increasing p value. When an experimentally observed relationship between the P value and apparent emitting area (from the FN plot) is taken into account, the results are in good agreement with the Field Emission theories of breakdown for initiation by anode processes. This is despite some unusually large emitting area values which are believed to be due to the modification of the field emission equation for the cathode sites caused by electrode surface contamination. Further investigation using ultrahigh vacuum techniques will, it is hoped, clarify this point.
* Now at the University of Liverpool, Liverpool 3.

Vacuum insulation between very cold niobium electrodes J S T Looms, R J Meats and D A Swift When the niobium electrodes of a vacuum gap were cooled from room temperature to 4.2K, the pre-breakdown current was greatly reduced, and the breakdown voltage significantly increased. No change in current or voltage was detected at the onset of superconductivity. These phenomena are discussed in relation to the physical mechanisms and a technical application. The high voltage performance of a 500 kV bushing in the pressure range 2 x 1O-B torr to 1 x 1O-3 torr. H Wroe and R G Fowler, Ruthecford High Energy Laboratory Chilton, Didcot, Berks. A single gap accelerating device for protons is described. The hydrogen plasma source is contained in the high voltage terminal of a feed-through bushing at a positive potential of a few hundred kV. Protons are accelerated from the plasma, across a single gap and through an aperture in a titanium cathode at earth potential. A special bushing has been designed to contain the plasma source in a stainless steel anode and also to provide access for electrical supplies, a supply of hydrogen gas and a coolant circuit. With a 15 cm gap and a vacuum of about 2 x 10eB torr the gap can be conditioned to 300 kV DC; when hydrogen is admitted to raise the pressure to about 1 x lO-3 torr a potential of 350 to 400 kV can be held. Impulse voltages of over 500 kV were withstood without sparking when corona rings and a capacitive potential divider were added to the bushing. The impulse waveform had a 1 ,USrise time and a 1 ms wavetail. A proton beam of 200 mA does not affect the breakdown phenomena provided the beam passes through and does not strike the cathode, and secondary electrons are suppressed. Field emission from anodised aluminium film cathodes H T Miles and R J Scarrott, Department of Physics, University College of Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea In the theories of vacuum breakdown so far proposed the various mechanisms involved depend critically on the condition of electrode surfaces. Hence the presence of insulating layers on these surfaces, either occurring naturally or by design, must influence the processes suggested as responsible for breakdown. Some work on thick layers indicates that this is so, and some improvement in vacuum insulation has been achieved. An investigation of field emission from surfaces covered with insulating layers may be relevant to vacuum breakdown studies

Pre-breakdown processes in a plane electrode configuration in ultrahigh vacuum J C L Cornish, A Ghani and E Braun*, West Ham College of Technology With clean electrodes the pre-breakdown current obeys the Fowler-Nordheim equation, provided one assumes that the microscopic field is enhanced by the factor fl which depends on the smoothness and the cleanliness of the surfaces. Cleaning can be achieved by one of three methods (a) conditioning by prebreakdown currents (b) heating by electron bombardment and (c) a combination of electron ion bombardment and heating. If cleaning is achieved by conditioning, the evolution of carbon dioxide runs parallel to the level of pre-breakdown current for long periods, until complete outgassing and cleaning has been achieved. The materials used were Al, Bi, Cu, Ni and Zr. The enhancement factor fi could in all cases by reduced by the three treatments above, but always remained in the order of 100.
Present address: Birmingham Department of Physics, University of Aston in

A study of pre-breakdown and breakdown phenomena for stainless steel electrodes H P S Powell and P A Chatterton (Rutherford High Energy Laboratory, Chilton, Didcot, Berks) This paper describes an investigation into the electrical conduction between Stainless Steel electrodes in an unbaked vacuum system evacuated to a pressure of 3 x lo- torr with a liquid Nitrogen trapped, Mercury diffusion pump. Reproducible current-voltage plots were obtained only after the adoption of a high current Ageing prodecure, which removed major current instabilities, and the development of a rapid plotting technique, which enabled meaningful measurements in spite of the time variation of the pre-breakdown currents. The results were then a good fit to the FowIerNordheim equation for field electron emission over the whole of the available gap range from 0.008 ems to 0.4 ems. Critical cathode fields at breakdown were gap dependent, decreasing from (6.8kO.6) x 10 volts/cm at 0.008 ems to 410