Most long-range telecommunication systems are based upon microwave links. The transmitters use microwave amplifiers which in the very near future will be required to work at up to 30100GHz with output power in the region of a few tens of watts. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs), which exhibit extraordinary field emission properties because of their high electrical conductivity, ideal high aspect ratio whisker-like shape for geometrical field enhancement, and remarkable thermal stability, can be used as the emitter in such applications. This article will describe the plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition growth of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, and how well controlled arrays of such structures can be grown. We will also describe how high current densities of 1Acm2, under direct current and 1.5GHz direct modulation, can be obtained from CNT cathodes. These CNT cold cathodes offer considerable weight and size savings over conventional hot cathodes used in microwave applications (e.g., SATCOM, radar).

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