This method produces a field emitter material having a uniform electron emitting surface and a low turn-on voltage. Field emitter materials having uniform electron emitting surfaces as large as 1 square meter and turn-on voltages as low as 16V/.mu.m can be produced from films of electron emitting materials such as polycrystalline diamond, diamond-like carbon, graphite and amorphous carbon by the method of the present invention. The process involves conditioning the surface of a field emitter material by applying an electric field to the surface, preferably by scanning the surface of the field emitter material with an electrode maintained at a fixed distance of at least 3 .mu.m above the surface of the field emitter material and at a voltage of at least 500V. In order to enhance the uniformity of electron emission the step of conditioning can be preceeded by ion implanting carbon, nitrogen, argon, oxygen or hydrogen into the surface layers of the field emitter material.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTEREST
This invention was made with Government support under contract no. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Sandia Corporation. The Government has certain rights in the invention.