Our new publication “Resonant Tunneling Induced Enhancement of Electron Field Emission by Ultra-Thin Coatings” has been published today in Scientific Reports.

Abstract: The emission of electrons from the surface of a material into vacuum depends strongly on the material’s work function, temperature, and the intensity of electric field. The combined effects of these give rise to a multitude of related phenomena, including Fowler-Nordheim tunneling and Schottky emission, which, in turn, enable several families of devices, ranging from vacuum tubes, to Schottky diodes, and thermionic energy converters. More recently, nanomembrane-based detectors have found applications in high-resolution mass spectrometry measurements in proteomics. Progress in all the aforementioned applications critically depends on discovering materials with effective low surface work functions. We show that a few atomic layer deposition (ALD) cycles of zinc oxide onto suspended diamond nanomembranes, strongly reduces the threshold voltage for the onset of electron field emission which is captured by resonant tunneling from the ZnO layer. Solving the Schroedinger equation, we obtain an electrical field- and thickness-dependent population of the lowest few subbands in the thin ZnO layer, which results in a minimum in the threshold voltage at a thickness of 1.08 nm being in agreement with the experimentally determined value. We conclude that resonant tunneling enables cost-effective ALD coatings that lower the effective work function and enhance field emission from the device.