(19)
(11)EP 3 096 341 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
22.07.2020 Bulletin 2020/30

(21)Application number: 15167996.6

(22)Date of filing:  18.05.2015
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
H01J 1/304(2006.01)
H01J 63/02(2006.01)
C30B 7/14(2006.01)
H01J 63/06(2006.01)
H01J 9/02(2006.01)
C30B 29/16(2006.01)

(54)

METHOD FOR MANUFACTURING NANOSTRUCTURES FOR A FIELD EMISSION CATHODE

VERFAHREN ZUR HERSTELLUNG VON NANOSTRUKTUREN FÜR EINE FELDEMISSIONSKATHODE

PROCÉDÉ DE FABRICATION DE NANOSTRUCTURES POUR UNE CATHODE À ÉMISSION DE CHAMP


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(43)Date of publication of application:
23.11.2016 Bulletin 2016/47

(73)Proprietor: LightLab Sweden AB
754 50 Uppsala (SE)

(72)Inventors:
  • Tirén, Jonas
    SE-753 34 UPPSALA (SE)
  • Carlsson, Jan-Otto
    SE-756 45 UPPSALA (SE)
  • Nikonova, Olesya
    SE-755 91 UPPSALA (SE)

(74)Representative: Kransell & Wennborg KB 
P.O. Box 27834
115 93 Stockholm
115 93 Stockholm (SE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 2 784 800
US-A1- 2007 284 573
US-A1- 2014 346 976
US-A1- 2006 091 782
US-A1- 2009 011 224
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    Field of the Invention



    [0001] The present invention relates to the field of field emission lighting, and specifically to a method for manufacturing ZnO nanostructures for a field emission cathode.

    Technical Background



    [0002] The technology used in modern energy saving lighting devices uses mercury as one of the active components. As mercury harms the environment, extensive research is done to overcome the complicated technical difficulties associated with energy saving, mercury-free lighting.

    [0003] An approach used for solving this problem is to use field emission light source technology. Field emission is a phenomenon which occurs when a very high electric field is applied to the surface of a conducting material. This field will give electrons enough energy such that the electrons are emitted (into vacuum) from the material.

    [0004] In prior art devices, a cathode is arranged in an evacuated chamber, having for example glass walls, wherein the chamber on its inside is coated with an electrically conductive anode layer. Furthermore, a light emitting layer is deposited on the anode. When a high enough potential difference is applied between the cathode and the anode thereby creating high enough electrical field strength, electrons are emitted from the cathode and accelerated towards the anode. As the electrons strike the light emitting layer, typically comprising a light powder such as a phosphor material, the light powder will emit photons. This process is referred to as cathodoluminescence.

    [0005] One example of a light source applying field emission light source technology is disclosed in EP1709665. EP1709665 disclose a bulb shaped light source comprising a centrally arranged field emission cathode, further comprising an anode layer arranged on an inside surface of a glass bulb enclosing the field emission cathode. The disclosed field emission light source allows for omnidirectional emission of light, which for example is useful in relation to a retrofit light source implementation.

    [0006] Even though the EP1709665 shows a promising approach to a mercury free light source, the cathode structure used is relatively basic, specifically for achieving a high level of uniformity in regards to light emission. There is thus a desire to improve upon the cathode structure, thereby improving the overall impression of light emitted from the field emission light source. In addition, there is also a desire to present improvements in regards to a manufacturing method used for forming such a cathode, in particular concerning uniformity, controllability and repeatability.

    [0007] US 2014/0346976 A1 and US 2007/0284573 A1 disclose methods of forming a plurality of ZnO nanostructures for a field emission cathode, by means of a growing step based on the provision of a growth solution comprising a Zn-based growth agent and a heating process.

    Summary of the Invention



    [0008] In view of the above-mentioned and other drawbacks of the prior art, a general object of the present invention is to provide an improved method for manufacturing a cathode for use in a field emission arrangement, where the resulting cathode plays an essential role in achieving a high level of uniformity in regards to light emission.

    [0009] According to the present invention, it is provided a method of forming a plurality of ZnO nanostructures according to present claim 1.

    [0010] Here, the term nanostructure refers to a structure where at least one dimension is on the order of up to a few hundreds of nanometers. In particular, the nanostructure herein mainly refers to a nanorod. Such a nanorod may also be referred to as a nanowire, nanotube, nanopencil, nanospike, nanoneedle and nanofibre.

    [0011] The growth substrate can be a planar substrate comprising Ni, Cu or Fe, or it can be a silicon-based or other semiconductor substrate coated with one of the aforementioned metals. However, the substrate material is not limited to the abovementioned materials, and any suitable material can be used. Moreover, nanostructures can be formed directly on the substrate, or the substrate may comprise Zn seed particles from which nanostructures are primarily formed. A substrate having a surface comprising seed particles may be referred to as a seeded substrate.

    [0012] The present invention is based on the realization that a well controlled method for manufacturing high quality nanostructures can be achieved by controlling the pH value of the growth solution through three different phases of nanostructure formation, a nucleation phase, a growth phase and a tip-formation phase. Through the inventive method, an assembly of nanostructures can be grown which exhibit a desirable distribution with respect to height/length, tip sharpness, separation and alignment. It should thus be understood that the properties referred to and discussed herein relates to average properties of the distribution of the grown nanostructures.

    [0013] The nucleation phase is the initial phase where a plurality of ZnO nuclei is formed on the growth substrate to facilitate further growth of ZnO nanostructures. During the nucleation phase it is possible to control the density of nucleation sites on the growth surface so that the resulting nanostructure density can be controlled.

    [0014] During the growth phase, the size of the nanostructures is controlled, and in particular the height and width of the nanostructures.

    [0015] Finally, in the tip formation phase, the geometry of the outermost portion of the nanostructure can be controlled. In some applications, such as in a field emission device, it is typically desirable to have a sharp tip of the field emission cathode in order to improve field emission properties. A suitable nanostructure for a field emission diode may for example be a nanorod. Moreover, the method may advantageously comprise a phase of forming tapered tips of the nanostructures. Moreover, the nanostructure tips may advantageously have a radius of curvature in the range of 1 to 20 nm.

    [0016] According to the invention, the step of increasing the pH value to initiate a nucleation phase comprises heating the growth solution to a first temperature. Heating the growth solution accelerates the decomposition of HMTA, releasing ammonia, which leads to an increase in the pH-value.

    [0017] According to the invention, the step of increasing the pH value to transition from the growth phase to the tip-formation phase comprises decreasing the temperature of the growth solution to a second temperature, lower than the first temperature, the second temperature being 70°C.

    [0018] According to one embodiment of the invention, the predefined initial pH-value may advantageously be in the range of 4.5 to 6.7. The initial pH value is for example selected based on the size of the substrate on which the nanostructures are to be grown, where a larger substrate requires a higher Zn-concentration which in turn gives a lower pH value. The initial pH value is also selected based on the desired nucleation site density. Furthermore, the initial pH value will also depend on if the growth substrate comprises seed particles or not, where a lower pH value is selected for a seeded substrate compared to for an un-seeded substrate.

    [0019] According to one embodiment of the invention, the nanorods may advantageously have a length in the range of 3-50 µm and a diameter in the range of 20-300 nm.

    [0020] In one embodiment of the invention, the first temperature of the growth solution may advantageously be controlled to be 90°C, and the second temperature of the growth solution is controlled to be 70°C. It should be understood that small variations of the temperatures are possible without significantly influencing the process. There is also a correlation between the temperature, growth agent concentration and pH value, so that a change in initial pH value of the growth solution and/or a change in composition of the growth solution may require different temperatures to reach the desired result.

    [0021] According to one embodiment of the invention, the growth substrate may be a wire comprising Ni, Cu or Fe. Furthermore, the growth substrate may be a wire protruding from a planar surface. The growth substrate may also be a wire made from another material having a Ni, Cu or Fe coating. The growth substrate may also be coated by any other suitable material.

    [0022] Further preferred features of, and advantages with, the present invention will become apparent when studying the appended claims and the following description. The skilled person realize that different features of the present invention may be combined to create embodiments other than those described in the following, within the scope of the present invention defined by the claims.

    Brief Description of the Drawings



    [0023] These and other aspects of the present invention will now be described in more detail with reference to the appended drawings showing an example embodiment of the invention, wherein:

    Fig. 1 outlines the general steps of a method according to an embodiment of the invention;

    Fig. 2 schematically illustrates general steps of a method according to an embodiment of the invention;

    Fig. 3 is a diagram schematically illustrating the pH value as a function of time for a method according to an embodiment of the invention;

    Fig. 4 is a diagram schematically illustrating the temperature as a function of time for a method according to an embodiment of the invention;

    Figs. 5a-b are schematic Illustrations of cathode structures

    Fig. 6 is a schematic diagram of a lighting arrangement and

    Fig. 7 is a schematic diagram of a lighting arrangement.


    Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments of the Invention



    [0024] In the present detailed description, various embodiments of a method for forming a cathode structure according to the present invention are mainly discussed with reference to a cathode structure comprising ZnO nanostructures suitable for use as field emitters. Like reference characters refer to like elements throughout.

    [0025] Fig. 1 schematically outlines the method for forming a plurality of ZnO nanostructures according to an embodiment of the invention. Some of the method steps of Fig. 1 will further be schematically illustrated in Fig 2. The method will mainly be discussed with reference to ZnO nanorods used as an illustrative example. Moreover, Fig. 3 is a diagram illustrating the pH value of the growth solution as a function of time throughout the process.

    [0026] In a first step 100, a growth substrate 200 is provided. The growth substrate 200 may for example be a conventional silicon chip or wafer. The substrate may also be glass, glass/ITO a metal substrate, or a substrate having a metal coating layer. A substrate can be used which comprises a reflecting surface, such as a metal or polished metal. A substrate having a reflective surface can add to the overall light extraction efficiency of a field emission light source. In practice it is inevitable that some of the generated light will be emitted towards the substrate. Through use of a reflecting surface, at least a portion of this light can be reflected in a direction so that it leaves the light source. Moreover, the growth substrate may also be a wire, a mesh, a grid or a 3D structure.

    [0027] Next 102, the substrate 200 is provided in a growth solution comprising a growth agent.

    [0028] The method is based on a growth agent in the form of a zinc salt precursor such as (Zn(Ac)2 (zinc acetate), Zn(NO3)2 (zinc nitrate), or ZnCl2 (zinc chloride)) and also HMTA (hexamethylenetetramine). The overall process is based on a complex interplay between various reactions occurring on the growth substrate and in the growth solution and preferably during a temperature cycle from room temperature, up to 90°C, and at the end at a somewhat lower temperature. Basically all reactions occurring during the growth are strongly pH dependent and the critical steps during the growth of the ZnO can be identified and controlled by monitoring and controlling the pH of the growth solution. The major coupled pH dependent reactions are summarized below:

            HMTA = HCHO + 4 NH3

            NH3 + H2O = NH4+ + OH-

            Zn2+ + 2 OH- = Zn(OH)2 (s) = ZnO (s) + H2O



    [0029] In addition, complexation reactions occur between zinc ions and the formed ammonia. From the given reactions above it can be understood that ZnO precipitation and growth is dependent on both Zn2+ concentration and pH-value. However, temperature is another parameter to control in order to be able to grow a nanorod structure with desired rod separation, rod length and tip radius of the rods.

    [0030] In the next step 104, initiation of nucleation of ZnO on the substrate requires a supersaturation, i.e. a higher pH than during the growth of the rods. For example, an increase in pH by about 0.2 is required to initiate the nucleation phase 106. The pH value increases by the decomposition of HMTA into ammonia, yielding a more basic solution. To initiate the nucleation phase, the temperature is increased from room temperature using a fixed temperature ramping rate. The ramping rate is selected based in the initial pH-value and zinc concentration. During the nucleation phase, nucleation sites 202 are formed on the substrate 200.

    [0031] The starting pH value, zinc concentration and temperature increase rate determine the nucleus 202 density and hence the resulting rod separation at the end of the process. For low zinc concentrations, about 1 mM, the starting pH should be about 6.2 at room temperature for a subsequent temperature increase from room temperature to 90°C. For a higher zinc concentration, the starting pH should be lower. For e.g. a zinc concentration of 24 mM, the starting pH should be 5.8 with other conditions the same as discussed above.

    [0032] The above methods steps are described with respect to an un-seeded substrate. However, the same reasoning applies also for a substrate comprising Zn seed particles, i.e. a seeded substrate. A seeded substrate can be formed by dipping the substrate in a solution comprising zinc acetate, zinc nitrate, and/or zinc chloride. After dipping, the substrate is heat treated at about 250°C for approximately 30 min to evaporate the solvents thereby forming Zn seed particles on the surface of the substrate.

    [0033] When using a seeded substrate, the starting pH value should be approximately 5.0. Moreover, the use of a seeded substrate will result in an increased density of grown nanostructures. The following description will mainly be focused on the use of an un-seeded substrate. The skilled person readily realizes that the same teachings also apply to a seeded substrate.

    [0034] After nucleation sites 202 have been formed, a transition 108 to the growth phase 110 takes place. The transition from the nucleation phase to the growth phase, and the corresponding change in pH-value, is a result of the change in composition of the growth solution occurring during the nucleation phase. By selecting the appropriate temperature ramping, the nucleation phase occurs during the temperature ramping so that the temperature of the growth solution is approximately 90°C when the growth phase starts.

    [0035] When the growth phase 110 is reached and the ZnO nanorods 204 start to grow, OH is consumed through the formation of Zn(OH)2 which leads to a decrease in pH value in the growth solution, while HMTA decomposition leads to an increase in pH value. As result of the two competing and opposing processes not being entirely balanced with respect to the influence on the pH-value of the growth solution, the overall result will be a small gradual increase in pH value of the growth solution overtime during nanorod growth.

    [0036] During the growth phase, the temperature is kept constant at approximately 90°C and the pH increases slightly mainly due to additional decomposition of HMTA. The duration of the growth phase determines the length of the ZnO nanorods 204. Here, a growth phase of about 200 min yields ZnO nanorods 204 having an average length of approximately 12 µm. Nanorod density and rod dimensions can be designed by controlling temperature, time, and precursor concentrations for every initially set pH value.

    [0037] During the growth phase 110 the pH will increase slightly and when the desired length of the nanorods has been reached at the end of the phase, the pH will purposely be increased by decreasing the temperature from 90°C to 70°C facilitating a transition 112 into a tip-formation phase to form 114 the sharp tips on the ZnO rods.

    [0038] In the tip-formation phase 112, tapered tips 206 are formed on the ZnO nanorods 206. In a field emission arrangement it is desirable to provide the best possible electron emission properties from the nanorod. Here the electron emission properties can be improved by providing a sharper nanorod tip which in turn leads to a better concentration of the field strength at the nanorod tip.

    [0039] The ZnO nanorods may also be doped during growth. This may for example be achieved by adding Al(NO3)2 or Ga(NO3)3 either at the tip formation phase or from the start of the nucleation and growth process.

    [0040] Fig. 3 is a diagram illustrating the pH-value as a function of time for a manufacturing method according to an embodiment of the invention, and Fig. 4 illustrates the corresponding temperature vs time for the growth process. The initial pH value is here approximately 6.2, which is increased to approximately 6.5 during the nucleation phase 300 when the temperature increases from room temperature up to approximately 90°C. After the nucleation phase 300, the pH-value is reduced to approximately 6.2 when the growth phase 302 starts. During the growth phase 302 the pH-value increases slightly as discussed above until the growth phase is completed and a transition to the tip-formation phase 304 is initiated by decreasing the temperature to 70°C. The temperature is decreased to 70°C and be kept there for a set amount of time until the desired tip shape is reached. Alternatively, but not within the scope of the present invention, the temperature may be ramped down from 90°C to room temperature, in which case the tip formation takes place during the temperature ramp. Here, the shape of the tip can be tailored by selecting the temperature ramp.

    [0041] As discussed above, the starting pH value for a seeded substrate is in the range of 5 to 6, whereas the pH values during the growth and tip-formation phase is substantially the same as for an un-seeded substrate.

    [0042] Employing a low-temperature hydrothermal growth method as described above is advantageous in that the process is easy and may be performed without complicated and expensive process equipment that is frequently required for high-temperature growth method such as thermal decomposition, thermal evaporation, physical vapor deposition (PVD) or chemical vapor deposition (CVD) methods.

    [0043] Figs. 5a-b are schematic illustrations of cathode geometries. In Fig. 5a, the cathode 500 comprises base wires 502 spanning a substantially spherical volume (e.g. a "wire cage"). Fig. 5a also illustrates that nanorods 204, such as ZnO nanorods, are grown on the base wire 502, extending substantially perpendicularly from the base wire, to act as electron emitters. The ZnO nanorods are advantageously grown according to the above discussed method to have a length in the range of 3-50 µm and a diameter in the range of 20-1000 nm. The base wire can have a circular cross section having a diameter in the range of 100-10000 µm.

    [0044] As a comparison to prior art arrangements comprising nanorods being grown on an essentially flat surface, the nanorods 204 are instead provided on spatially distributed base wires 502. This has the advantage that it may be possible to provide an improved electron emission. Using the essentially protruding base wires 502 (if compared to a flat surface) is advantageous regarding the voltage that needs to be applied over the cathode in order to achieve field emission from the nanorods 204 arranged on the base wires 502. For a flat surface, a higher voltage is required to achieve field emission in contrast to the presented structure where the voltage is concentrated to the base wires 502 thereby resulting in a higher electric field at the position of the nanorods 204 acting as field emitters.

    [0045] Fig. 5b illustrates a cathode structure 504 spanning a volume corresponding to a truncated cone made up of a single spiral shaped base wire 506. Also in Fig. 5b, the ZnO nanorods are protruding from the base wire.

    [0046] The cathodes shown in Figs. 5a-b are examples illustrating the concept of arbitrarily shaped cathode structures based on wires spanning a volume, enabling the formation of cathodes which may be used with anode structures and envelopes having in principle any practical shape. As can be seen in Figs. 5a-b, the cathode is arranged so that the only part of the base wire which protrudes form the spanned volume is the part of the base wire which is to be connected to a power supply.

    [0047] Fig. 6 schematically illustrates a field emission lighting arrangement 600. The lighting arrangement 600 comprises a glass structure 602 covered on its inside with a transparent electrode layer forming an anode electrode. The anode electrode is at least partially covered by a phosphor layer. Furthermore, the lighting device 600 comprises a cover 604, for example in the form of a diffusing plastic material enclosing the glass structure 604.

    [0048] The anode structure is configured to receive electrons emitted by the centrally arranged field emission cathode structure 500. The cathode 500 is here provided in the form of a wire structure comprising a plurality of ZnO nanorods acting as light emitters as illustrated in Fig. 5a.

    [0049] In an embodiment of the field emission lighting arrangement 600, it may be advantageous to adapt the shape/form of the "wire cage" of the field emission cathode structure 500 with respect to the glass structure 602, in case of a "classically" shaped lamp glass structure. Specifically, it is desirable to achieve a uniform emission of electrons emitted from the cathode 500 impinging on the anode/phosphor layer. As the "density" of base wires 502 at the "top"' of the field emission cathode structure 500 is increased, closely arranged base wires 502, compared to on the "sides" of the field emission cathode structure 500, the electric field at the top of the field emission cathode structure 500 will be somewhat lower as compared to the sides of the field emission cathode structure 500. Thus, it is suggested to shape the field emission cathode structure 500 to be somewhat elongated/elliptical, thereby decreasing the distance between the glass structure 602/anode and the field emission cathode structure 500 at the top of the field emission cathode structure 500. Accordingly, it may be possible to achieve a more uniform emission of light as compared to the case when the shape of the field emission cathode structure 500 is selected such to have an essentially uniform radius. Further related features and advantages of the embodiment illustrated in Fig. 6 are discussed in European patent application EP13160768.1. EP13160768.1 specifically handles the spatial relation between the anode and the cathode of a field emission light source.

    [0050] The phosphor layer may provide luminescence when the emitted electrons collide with phosphor particles of the phosphor layer, thereby exciting electrons which when recombining emits photons. Light provided from the phosphor layer will transmit through the transparent anode layer 602 and the cover 604. The light is preferably white, but colored light is of course possible and within the scope of the invention. The light may also be UV light.

    [0051] A lamp base 606 is provided for installing the lighting device 600 in e.g. an Edison based socket. Other types of light bases are of course possible and within the scope of the invention. The lamp base 606 allows the lighting device 600 to be connected to the mains, e.g. an alternating voltage between 90 - 270 V @ 40 - 70 Hz. The lamp base 308 is in turn connected to a power supply 60 connected to the anode structure and the field emission cathode structure and configured to apply a voltage so that an electron is emitted from the nanostructures of the cathode towards the anode.

    [0052] Referring now to Fig. 7, there is illustrated a field emission light source 700. The field emission light source 700 comprises a wafer 702 provided with a plurality of ZnO nanorods 704 having a length of at least 1 um, the wafer and plurality of ZnO nanorods 704 together forming a field emission cathode 706. In a possible embodiment the ZnO nanorods may be selectively arranged onto spaced protrusions (not shown). The ZnO nanorods may advantageously be grown using the above discussed method. It may also, as an alternative, be possible to substitute the ZnO nanorods 704 for carbon nanotubes (CNT, not shown). The field emission light source 700 further comprises an anode structure 708 arranged in close vicinity of the field emission cathode 706.

    [0053] The distance between the field emission cathode 706 and the anode structure 708 in the current embodiment is achieved by arranging a spacer structure 710 between the field emission cathode 706 and the anode structure 708, where a distance between the field emission cathode 706 and the anode structure 708 preferably is between 100 um to 5000 um. The cavity 712 formed between the field emission cathode 706 and the anode structure 708 is evacuated, thereby forming a vacuum between the field emission cathode 706 and the anode structure 708.

    [0054] The anode structure 708 comprises a transparent substrate, such as a planar glass structure 714. Other transparent materials are equally possible. Examples of such materials are quartz and sapphire. The transparent structure 714 is in turn provided with an electrically conductive and at least partly transparent anode layer, typically a transparent conductive oxide (TCO) layer, such as an indium tin oxide (ITO) layer 716. The thickness of the TCO layer is selected to allow maximum transparency with a low enough electrical resistance. In a preferred embodiment the transparency is selected to be above 90%. The ITO layer 716 may be applied to the glass structure 714 using any conventional method known to the skilled person, such as sputtering or deposition by solvent, or screen-printing. As will be discussed below, the electrically conductive anode layer 716 may take different shapes and forms depending on the implementation at hand.

    [0055] It should be noted that the glass structure 714 not necessarily has to be planar. In a possible embodiment, the glass structure 714 may be selected to form a lens for the field emission light source (e.g. being outward bulging), thereby possibly further enhancing the light extraction and mixing of light emitted from the field emission light source. It may also be possible to provide the glass structure with an anti-reflective coating.

    [0056] During operation of the field emission light source 700, a power supply (not shown) is controlled to apply a voltage between the field emission cathode 706 and the ITO layer 716. The voltage is preferably between 0.1 - 10 kV, depending for example on the distance between the field emission cathode 706 and the anode structure 708, the sharpness, height and length relationship of the plurality of ZnO nanorods 704 and the desired performance optimization.

    [0057] Electrons will be released from the outer tip end of the ZnO nanorods 704 and accelerated by the electric field towards the anode structure 708 in a direction towards phosphor layer 718 such that light will be emitted. The light emitted from the phosphor layer 718 will pass through the ITO layer 716 and through the glass structure 714 and thus out from the field emission light source 700.

    [0058] Further features and advantages of the embodiment illustrated in Fig. 7 are discussed in European patent application EP14198645.5, hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. For example, it may in one embodiment be possible to place a reflective (e.g. metal, such as aluminum) layer on top of the phosphor layer 718 in in a direction towards the cathode 706. The reflective layer must be thin enough and the electron energy must be high enough so that the electrons to a major extent will penetrate the reflective layer and deposit the majority of their energy into the phosphor layer. An advantage with this configuration is that the reflective layer may protect the underlying light converting material (such as the phosphor layer 718) from decomposition. In addition, the reflective features discussed may provide for minimizing light emission losses.

    [0059] Through the inventive method, an assembly of nanostructures can be grown which exhibit a desirable distribution with respect to height/length, tip sharpness, separation and alignment. It should thus be understood that the properties referred to and discussed herein relates to average properties of the distribution of the grown nanostructures.

    [0060] Even though the invention has been described with reference to specific exemplifying embodiments thereof, many different alterations, modifications and the like will become apparent for those skilled in the art. Variations to the disclosed embodiments can be understood and effected by the skilled addressee in practicing the claimed invention, from a study of the drawings, the disclosure, and the appended claims. The scope of the present invention is defined by the appended claims. Furthermore, in the claims, the word "comprising" does not exclude other elements or steps, and the indefinite article "a" or "an" does not exclude a plurality.


    Claims

    1. A method of forming a plurality of ZnO nanostructures (204) for a field emission cathode, the method comprising the steps of:

    - providing a growth substrate (200);

    - providing a growth solution comprising a Zn-based growth agent, said growth solution having a pre-defined initial pH-value at room temperature;

    - arranging said growth substrate in said growth solution;

    - increasing said pH value of said growth solution to reach a nucleation phase forming nucleation sites on said substrate;

    - decreasing said pH value to transition from said nucleation phase to a growth phase;

    - growing said nanostructures for a predetermined growth-time; and

    - increasing said pH value to transition from said growth phase to a tip-formation phase,
    wherein

    - the step of increasing said pH value to initiate a nucleation phase comprises heating said growth solution to a first temperature from room temperature using a fixed temperature ramping rate, the temperature ramping rate selected based on the initial pH-value and an initial zinc concentration of the Zn-based growth agent at room temperature,

    - the step of increasing said pH value to transition from said growth phase to said tip-formation phase comprises decreasing said temperature of said growth solution to a second temperature, lower than said first temperature,

    wherein the temperature is kept at the second temperature for a set amount of time until a desired tapered tip shape is reached, and the second temperature is 70°C.
     
    2. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said predefined initial pH-value is in the range of 4.5 to 6.7.
     
    3. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said nanostructure is a nanorod.
     
    4. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said tip-formation phase comprises forming tapered tips on said nanostructures, said tapered tips having a radius of curvature in the range of 1 to 20 nm.
     
    5. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said first temperature of said growth solution is controlled to be 90°C.
     
    6. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said growth substrate is a planar substrate.
     
    7. The method according to any one of the claims 1-5, wherein said growth substrate is a Ni, Fe or Cu wire.
     
    8. The method according to any one of the claims 1-5 or 7, wherein said growth substrate comprises a wire protruding from a planar surface.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Verfahren zum Ausbilden mehrerer ZnO-Nanostrukturen (204) für eine Feldemissionskathode, wobei das Verfahren folgende Schritte umfasst:

    - Bereitstellen eines Wachstumssubstrats (200);

    - Bereitstellen einer Wachstumslösung, die ein Wachstumsmittel auf Zn-Basis umfasst, wobei die Wachstumslösung bei Raumtemperatur einen vorab definierten anfänglichen pH-Wert aufweist;

    - Anordnen des Wachstumssubstrats in der Wachstumslösung;

    - Erhöhen des pH-Werts der Wachstumslösung, um eine Keimbildungsphase zu erreichen, die Keimbildungsstellen auf dem Substrat ausbildet;

    - Verringern des pH-Werts, um von der Keimbildungsphase zu einer Wachstumsphase überzugehen;

    - Wachsen der Nanostrukturen über eine vorgegebene Wachstumszeit; und

    - Erhöhen des pH-Werts, um von der Wachstumsphase zu einer Spitzenausbildungsphase überzugehen,
    wobei

    - der Schritt des Erhöhens des pH-Werts, um eine Keimbildungsphase zu initiieren, ein Erwärmen der Wachstumslösung von Raumtemperatur auf eine erste Temperatur unter Benutzung einer feststehenden Temperaturanstiegsrate umfasst, wobei die Temperaturanstiegsrate basierend auf dem anfänglichen pH-Wert und einer anfänglichen Zinkkonzentration des Wachstumsmittels auf Zn-Basis bei Raumtemperatur ausgewählt wird,

    - der Schritt des Erhöhens des pH-Werts, um von der Wachstumsphase zu der Spitzenausbildungsphase überzugehen, ein Verringern der Temperatur der Wachstumslösung auf eine zweite Temperatur umfasst, die niedriger ist als die erste Temperatur,

    wobei die Temperatur eine festgelegte Zeit lang, bis eine gewünschte sich verjüngende Spitzenform erreicht ist, bei der zweiten Temperatur gehalten wird und die zweite Temperatur 70 °C beträgt.
     
    2. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei der vorab definierte anfängliche pH-Wert im Bereich von 4,5 bis 6,7 liegt.
     
    3. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Nanostruktur ein Nanostab ist.
     
    4. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Spitzenausbildungsphase ein Ausbilden sich verjüngender Spitzen an den Nanostrukturen umfasst, wobei die sich verjüngenden Spitzen einen Krümmungsradius im Bereich von 1 bis 20 nm aufweisen.
     
    5. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die erste Temperatur der Wachstumslösung so geregelt wird, dass sie 90 °C beträgt.
     
    6. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei das Wachstumssubstrat ein planes Substrat ist.
     
    7. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 - 5, wobei das Wachstumssubstrat ein Ni-, Fe- oder Cu-Draht ist.
     
    8. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 - 5 oder 7, wobei das Wachstumssubstrat einen Draht umfasst, der von einer planen Oberfläche vorsteht.
     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé de formation d'une pluralité de nanostructures de ZnO (204) destiné à une cathode à émission de champ, le procédé comprenant les étapes consistant à :

    - apporter un substrat de croissance (200) ;

    - apporter une solution de croissance comprenant un agent de croissance à base de Zn, ladite solution de croissance ayant une valeur de pH initiale prédéfinie à température ambiante ;

    - agencer ledit substrat de croissance dans ladite solution de croissance ;

    - augmenter ladite valeur de pH de ladite solution de croissance pour atteindre une phase de nucléation formant des sites de nucléation sur le substrat ;

    - diminuer ladite valeur de pH à transition à partir de ladite phase de nucléation à une phase de croissance ;

    - faire croître lesdites nanostructures pendant un temps de croissance prédéfini ; et

    - augmenter ladite valeur de pH à transition à partir de ladite phase de croissance à une phase de formation de pointe,

    dans lequel

    - l'étape d'augmentation de ladite valeur de pH afin d'initier une phase de nucléation comprend le chauffage de ladite solution de croissance à une première température à partir de la température ambiante en utilisant un taux de montée en température fixe, le taux de montée en température étant choisi en fonction de la valeur de pH initiale et d'une concentration initiale en zinc de l'agent de croissance à base de Zn à température ambiante,

    - l'étape d'augmentation de ladite valeur de pH à transition à partir de ladite phase de croissance à ladite phase de formation de pointe comprend la diminution de ladite température de ladite solution de croissance à une deuxième température, inférieure à ladite première température,

    dans lequel la température est maintenue à la deuxième température pendant une durée définie jusqu'à ce qu'une forme de pointe conique souhaitée soit atteinte et que la deuxième température soit de 70 °C.
     
    2. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ladite valeur de pH initiale prédéfinie se situe dans la plage allant de 4,5 à 6,7.
     
    3. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ladite nanostructure est une nanotige.
     
    4. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ladite phase de formation de pointe comprend la formation de pointes coniques sur lesdites nanostructures, lesdites pointes coniques ayant un rayon de courbure dans la plage allant de 1 à 20 nm.
     
    5. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ladite première température de ladite solution de croissance est contrôlée pour valoir 90 °C.
     
    6. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ledit substrat de croissance est un substrat plan.
     
    7. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 5, dans lequel ledit substrat de croissance est un câble de Ni, de Fe ou de Cu.
     
    8. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 5 ou la revendication 7, dans lequel ledit substrat de croissance comprend un câble faisant saillie à partir d'une surface plane.
     




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    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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    Patent documents cited in the description