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Cerium hexaboride

Cerium hexaboride

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Cerium hexaboride is an inorganic chemical, a boride
Boride
In chemistry a boride is a chemical compound between boron and a less electronegative element, for example silicon boride . The borides are a very large group of compounds that are generally high melting and are not ionic in nature. Some borides exhibit very useful physical properties. The term...

 of cerium
Cerium
Cerium is a chemical element with the symbol Ce and atomic number 58. It is a soft, silvery, ductile metal which easily oxidizes in air. Cerium was named after the dwarf planet . Cerium is the most abundant of the rare earth elements, making up about 0.0046% of the Earth's crust by weight...

. It is a refractory
Refractory
A refractory material is one that retains its strength at high temperatures. ASTM C71 defines refractories as "non-metallic materials having those chemical and physical properties that make them applicable for structures, or as components of systems, that are exposed to environments above...

 ceramic
Ceramic
A ceramic is an inorganic, nonmetallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling. Ceramic materials may have a crystalline or partly crystalline structure, or may be amorphous...

 material. It has low work function
Work function
In solid-state physics, the work function is the minimum energy needed to remove an electron from a solid to a point immediately outside the solid surface...

 and one of the highest electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

 emissivity known, and is stable in vacuum
Vacuum
In everyday usage, vacuum is a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than atmospheric pressure. The word comes from the Latin term for "empty". A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which is impossible to achieve in...

. The principal use of cerium hexaboride is a coating of hot cathode
Hot cathode
In vacuum tubes, a hot cathode is a cathode electrode which emits electrons due to thermionic emission. In the accelerator community, these are referred to as thermionic cathodes. The heating element is usually an electrical filament...

s, or hot cathodes made of cerium hexaboride crystals. It usually operates at temperature of 1450 °C.

Lanthanum hexaboride
Lanthanum hexaboride
]]Lanthanum hexaboride is an inorganic chemical, a boride of lanthanum. It is a refractory ceramic material that has a melting point of 2210 °C, and is insoluble in water and hydrochloric acid. It has a low work function and one of the highest electron emissivities known, and is stable in...

 (LaB6) and cerium hexaboride (CeB6) are used as coating of some high-current hot cathode
Hot cathode
In vacuum tubes, a hot cathode is a cathode electrode which emits electrons due to thermionic emission. In the accelerator community, these are referred to as thermionic cathodes. The heating element is usually an electrical filament...

s. Hexaborides show low work function
Work function
In solid-state physics, the work function is the minimum energy needed to remove an electron from a solid to a point immediately outside the solid surface...

, around 2.5 eV
Electronvolt
In physics, the electron volt is a unit of energy equal to approximately joule . By definition, it is equal to the amount of kinetic energy gained by a single unbound electron when it accelerates through an electric potential difference of one volt...

. They are also somewhat resistant to cathode poisoning. Cerium boride cathodes show lower evaporation rate at 1700 K than lanthanum boride, but it becomes equal at 1850 K and higher above that. Cerium boride cathodes have one and half the lifetime of lanthanum boride, due to its higher resistance to carbon contamination. Boride cathodes are about ten times as "bright" than the tungsten
Tungsten
Tungsten , also known as wolfram , is a chemical element with the chemical symbol W and atomic number 74.A hard, rare metal under standard conditions when uncombined, tungsten is found naturally on Earth only in chemical compounds. It was identified as a new element in 1781, and first isolated as...

 ones and have 10-15 times longer lifetime. In some laboratory tests, CeB6 has proven to be more resistant to the negative impact of carbon contamination than LaB6. They are used eg. in electron microscope
Electron microscope
An electron microscope is a type of microscope that uses a beam of electrons to illuminate the specimen and produce a magnified image. Electron microscopes have a greater resolving power than a light-powered optical microscope, because electrons have wavelengths about 100,000 times shorter than...

s, microwave tubes, electron lithography, electron beam welding
Electron beam welding
Electron beam welding is a fusion welding process in which a beam of high-velocity electrons is applied to the materials being joined. The workpieces melt as the kinetic energy of the electrons is transformed into heat upon impact, and the filler metal, if used, also melts to form part of the weld...

, X-Ray tube
X-ray tube
An X-ray tube is a vacuum tube that produces X-rays. They are used in X-ray machines. X-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, an ionizing radiation with wavelengths shorter than ultraviolet light...

s, and free electron laser
Free electron laser
A free-electron laser, or FEL, is a laser that shares the same optical properties as conventional lasers such as emitting a beam consisting of coherent electromagnetic radiation which can reach high power, but which uses some very different operating principles to form the beam...

s.

Cerium hexaboride, like lanthanum hexaboride, slowly evaporates during the cathode operation. In conditions where CeB6 cathodes are operated under 1850 K, CeB6 should maintain its optimum shape longer and therefore last longer. While the process is about 30% slower than with lanthanum boride, the cerium boride deposits are reported to be more difficult to remove.