A research team at Monash University located in Australia, in partnership with researchers at CSIRO Process Science and Engineering has developed a potential and easily producible substitute for plastics known as amorphous bulk metallic glass (ABM), paving the way to overcome the drawbacks of field emission devices based on carbon nanotubes embedded in plastics.
The embedded carbon nanotubes act as the electron source as well as allow electrical conductivity in usually inert plastics, enabling the fabrication of easy-to-produce, multipurpose field emission devices. However, high nanomaterial concentration is needed to obtain the desired electrical conductivity in plastics, which are naturally an inferior electrical conductor. Plastics are also not suitable for prolonged operation due its low thermal stability. These drawbacks are bottlenecks for the widespread usage of field emission devices that generate a stable electron stream.
These novel ABM alloys can create amorphous materials and behave like glass. The research team utilized an alloy produced from gadolinium, copper and magnesium. This metallic glass demonstrates the desirable properties of plastics and can be manufactured in bulk quantity. It has high electrical conductivity and can be used to produce various shapes. It can be used as an efficient matrix to embed the carbon nanotubes.
The metallic glass can keep its shape and strength even at high temperatures due to its superior thermal properties and has superior electron emission properties. These aspects make the novel material ideal for electron emission applications. This is a first-its-kind composite of metallic glass and carbon nanotubes utilized for a functional device like field emission devices. This technology can be used in applications including modern display devices, nano-electronics, X-ray or microwave generation and electron microscopes.