Scandate cathodes have exhibited superior emission properties compared to current state-of-the-art “M-type” thermionic cathodes. However, their integration into vacuum devices is limited in part by a lack of knowledge regarding their functional lifespan and behavior during operation. Here, we consider thermal desorption from scandate cathodes by examining the distribution of material deposited on interior surfaces of a sealed vacuum device after ~26,000 h of cathode operation. XPS, EDS, and TEM analyses indicate that on the order of 1 wt.% of the initial impregnate is desorbed during a cathode’s lifetime, Ca does not desorb uniformly with time, and little to no Sc desorbs from the cathode surfaces (or does so at an undetectable rate). Findings from this first-ever study of a scandate cathode after extremely long-time operation yield insight into the utility of scandate cathodes as components in vacuum devices and suggest possible effects on device performance due to deposition of desorption products on interior device surfaces.

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Published in Materials, v. 13, issue 22, 5149.

© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This work was financially supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Innovative Vacuum Electronics Science and Technology (INVEST) program, under grant number N66001-16-1-4041.