A process for sharpening arrays of field emitter tips of field emission cathodes, such as found in field-emission, flat-panel video displays. The process uses sputtering by high-energy (more than 30 keV) ions incident along or near the longitudinal axis of the field emitter to sharpen the emitter with a taper from the tip or top of the emitter down to the shank of the emitter. The process is particularly applicable to sharpening tips of emitters having cylindrical or similar (e.g., pyramidal) symmetry. The process will sharpen tips down to radii of less than 12 nm with an included angle of about 20 degrees. Because the ions are incident along or near the longitudinal axis of each emitter, the tips of gated arrays can be sharpened by high-energy ion beams rastered over the arrays using standard ion implantation equipment. While the process is particularly applicable for sharpening of arrays of field emitters in field-emission flat-panel displays, it can be effectively utilized in the fabrication of other vacuum microelectronic devices that rely on field emission of electrons.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.