The kinetic energy distributions of photo-electrons emitted from gold surfaces under illumination by UV-light close to the threshold (photon energy in the order of the material work function) are measured and analyzed. Samples are prepared as chemically clean through Ar-ion sputtering and then exposed to atmosphere for variable durations before quantum yield measurements are performed after evacuation. During measurements, the bias voltage applied to the sample is varied and the resulting emission current measured. Taking the derivative of the current-voltage curve yields the energy distribution which is found to closely resemble the distribution of total energies derived by DuBridge for emission from a free electron gas. We investigate the dependence of distribution shape and width on electrode geometry and contaminant substances adsorbed from the atmosphere, in particular, to water and hydro-carbons. Emission efficiency increases initially during air exposure before diminishing to zero on a timescale of several hours, whilst subsequent annealing of the sample restores emissivity. A model fit function, in good quantitative agreement with the measured data, is introduced which accounts for the experiment-specific electrode geometry and an energy dependent transmission coefficient. The impact of large patch potential fields from contact potential drops between sample and sample holder is investigated. The total quantum yield is split into bulk and surface contributions which are tested for their sensitivity to light incidence angle and polarization. Our results are directly applicable to model parameters for the contact-free discharge system onboard the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Pathfinder spacecraft.

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