We have investigated the crossed-field secondary emission (CFSE) electron source which is of a magnetron type with smooth cylindrical electrodes and axial applied magnetic field. It initiates at the negative slope d∣U∣/dt<0
of the high voltage pulse U ∼ 10–40 kV,
but further current production is maintained by a self-sustained secondary electron emission regardless to the voltage pulse shape. The output electron beam is tubular with a thin ∼1 mm wall. This article is concerned mainly with the identification of the mechanisms governing the excitation and generation of the electron beam and with the determination of the principles upon which the “optimal” CFSE electron source should be designed. We have demonstrated that the CFSE diode starts operation in a self-excitation regime (i.e., without application of the primary current) provided there is a partial trapping of the multiplying electrons inside the diode boundaries. The required axial decelerating force can be established with the use of either axial electric or nonuniform magnetic fields. Amongst all of the practical methods tested (shifting of the anode with respect to the cathode, double diode, diodes with ferromagnetic parts, use of the nonuniform external magnetic field), the diode with a ferromagnetic ring insert inside the cathode cylinder has been shown to be the most successful. It has generated an ∼240 A electron beam with a perveance of ∼85 μA/V3/2
. The operating range of the CFSE diode is limited by both low and high magnetic fields. The lower limit arises from a necessity to comply with a Hull cutoff condition. The upper limit is determined by the time required for development of an electron avalanche. A secondary electron emission mechanism of current production in the CFSE diode allows the diode to operate in an oscillating regime when the applied magnetic field is higher but close to the Hull cutoff value. It has thus been possible to generate 100% density modulated electron beams at a modulation frequency of ∼ 107 Hz
in our present experiments with the possibility of further increases up to ∼ 108 Hz.
A geometrical scaling law for the CFSE diodes has been deduced empirically. It states that the perveance of the output electron beam is proportional to the geometrical factor X = (Dk/de)(−0.8),
is the cathode diameter, de
is an effective diode gap, and Ld
is the diode length. The scaling law provides a tool for designing the CFSE diodes and predicting the ultimate beam currents. For a practical size of device, this electron current could be as high as ∼1 kA.