A cathode has electropositive atoms directly bonded to a carbon-containing substrate. Preferably, the substrate comprises diamond or diamond-like (sp.sup.3) carbon, and the electropositive atoms are Cs. The cathode displays superior efficiency and durability. In one embodiment, the cathode has a negative electron affinity (NEA). The cathode can be used for field emission, thermionic emission, or photoemission. Upon exposure to air or oxygen, the cathode performance can be restored by annealing or other methods. Applications include detectors, electron multipliers, sensors, imaging systems, and displays, particularly flat panel displays.
This invention was made with government support under Contract Nos. DE-AC03-76SF00515 and DE-AC04-94AL85000, awarded by the Department of Energy. The U.S. government has certain rights in this invention.