A method of producing field emitters having improved brightness and durability relying on the creation of a liquid Taylor cone from electrically conductive materials having high melting points. The method calls for melting the end of a wire substrate with a focused laser beam, while imposing a high positive potential on the material. The resulting molten Taylor cone is subsequently rapidly quenched by cessation of the laser power. Rapid quenching is facilitated in large part by radiative cooling, resulting in structures having characteristics closely matching that of the original liquid Taylor cone. Frozen Taylor cones thus obtained yield desirable tip end forms for field emission sources in electron beam applications. Regeneration of the frozen Taylor cones in-situ is readily accomplished by repeating the initial formation procedures. The high temperature liquid Taylor cones can also be employed as bright ion sources with chemical elements previously considered impractical to implement.