"Surface Photovoltage-Induced Ultralow Work Function Material for Thermionic Energy Converters"

Peter Schindler: Daniel C. Riley, Igor Bargatin, Kunal Sahasrabuddhe, Jared W. Schwede, Steven Sun, Piero Pianetta, Zhi-Xun Shen, Roger T. Howe and Nicholas A. Melosh; Acs Energy Letters, 10/11/19.

Additional Authors: Daniel C. Riley, Igor Bargatin, Kunal Sahasrabuddhe, Jared W. Schwede, Steven Sun, Piero Pianetta, Zhi-Xun Shen, Roger T. Howe and Nicholas A. Melosh

Abstract:

Low work function materials are essential for efficient thermionic energy converters (TECs), electronics, and electron emission devices. Much effort has been put into finding thermally stable material combinations that exhibit low work functions. Submonolayer coatings of alkali metals have proven to significantly reduce the work function; however, a work function less than 1 eV has not been reached. We report a record-low work function of 0.70 eV by inducing a surface photovoltage (SPV) in an n-type semiconductor with an alkali metal coating. Ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy indicates a work function of 1.06 eV for cesium/oxygen-activated GaAs consistent with density functional theory model predictions. By illuminating with a 532 nm laser we induce an additional shift down to 0.70 eV due to the SPV. Further, we apply the SPV to the collector of an experimental TEC and demonstrate an IV curve shift consistent with the collector work function reduction. This method opens an avenue toward efficient TECs and next-generation electron emission devices.

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