The anodic emitter effect and its inversion demonstrated by temperature measurements at doped and undoped tungsten electrodes

Thomas Höbing, Andre Bergner, Patrick Hermanns, Jürgen Mentel, Peter Awakowicz

JOURNAL OF PHYSICS D-APPLIED PHYSICS Volume: 49 Issue: 15 Article Number: 155504 DOI: 10.1088/0022-3727/49/15/155504 Published: APR 20 2016


The admixture of a small amount of emitter oxides, e.g. ThO2, La2O3 or Ce2O3 to tungsten generates the so-called emitter effect. It reduces the work function of tungsten cathodes, that are applied in high intensity discharge (HID) lamps. After leaving the electrode bulk and moving to the surface, a monolayer of Th, La, or Ce atoms is formed on the surface, which reduces the effective work function phi. Depending on the coverage of the electrode, the effective reduction in f is subjected to the thermal desorption of the monolayer from the hot electrode surface. The thermal desorption of emitter atoms from the cathode is compensated not only by the supply from the interior of the electrode and by surface diffusion of the emitter material to its tip, but also to a large extent by a repatriation of the emitter ions from the plasma by the strong electric field in front of the cathode. Yet, an emitter ion current from the arc discharge to the anode may only be present, if the anode is cold enough to refrain from thermionic emission. Therefore, the ability of emitter oxides to reduce the temperature of tungsten anodes is only given for a moderate temperature so that the thermal desorption is low and an additional ion current is present in front of the anode. A higher electrode temperature leads to their evaporation and to an inversion of the emitter effect, which increases the temperature of the respective anodes in comparison with pure tungsten anodes. Within this article, the emitter effect of doped tungsten anodes and the transition to its inversion is investigated for thoriated, lanthanated, and ceriated tungsten electrodes by measurements of the electrode temperature in dependence on the discharge current. It is shown for a lanthanated and a ceriated anode that the emitter effect is sustained by an ion current at anode temperatures at which the thermal evaporation of emitter material is completed.