Unraveling The Origin of Enhanced Field Emission from Irradiated FeCo-SiO2 Nanocomposites: A Combined Experimental and First-Principles Based Study


This work is driven by the vision of engineering planar field emitters with ferromagnetic metal-insulator nanocomposite thin films, using swift heavy ion (SHI) irradiation method. FeCo nanoparticles inside SiO$_2$ matrix, when subjected to SHI get elongated. Using this, we demonstrate here a planar field emitter with maximum current density of 550 $\mu$A/cm$^2$ at an applied field of 15 V/$\mu$m. The film, irradiated with 5$\times10^{13}$ ions/cm$^2$ fluence (5e13) of 120 MeV Au$^{+9}$ ions, shows very high electron emitting quantum efficiency in comparison to its unirradiated counterpart. Surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy analysis of unirradiated and 5e13 films further confirms that the field emission (FE) enhancement is not only due to surface protrusions but also depends on the properties of entire matrix. We find experimental evidence of enhanced valence band density of states (VB DOS) for 5e13 film from XPS, which is verified in the electronic structure of a model FeCo cluster from first-principles based calculations combining density functional theory (DFT) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The MD temperature is selected from the lattice temperature profile inside nanoparticles as deduced from thermal spike model. Increasing the irradiation fluence beyond 5e13, results in reduced VB DOS and melting of surface protrusions, thus causing reduction of FE current density. We finally conclude from theoretical analysis that change in fluence alters the co-ordination chemistry followed by the charge distribution and spin alignment, which influence the VB DOS and concurrent FE as evident from our experiment.

Contact details: 

Debalaya Sarker, Saswata Bhattacharya, Pankaj Srivastava and Santanu Ghosh

Department of Physics