Today in History:
Thomas Edison Observes the Edison Effect (1880)
Thermionic emission is the heat-induced flow of charge carriers from a surface or over a potential-energy barrier.
This occurs because the thermal energy given to the carrier overcomes the forces restraining it. The charge carriers can be electrons or ions, and in older literature are sometimes referred to as "thermions". After emission, a charge will initially be left behind in the emitting region that is equal in magnitude and opposite in sign to the total charge emitted. But if the emitter is connected to a battery, then this charge left behind will be neutralized by charge supplied by the battery, as the emitted charge carriers move away from the emitter, and finally the emitter will be in the same state as it was before emission. The thermionic emission of electrons is also known as thermal electron emission.
The classical example of thermionic emission is the emission of electrons from a hot metal cathode into a vacuum (archaically known as the Edison effect) in a vacuum tube. However, the term "thermionic emission" is now used to refer to any thermally excited charge emission process, even when the charge is emitted from one solid-state region into another. This process is crucially important in the operation of a variety of electronic devices and can be used for power generation or cooling. The magnitude of the charge flow increases dramatically with increasing temperature. However, vacuum emission from metals tends to become significant only for temperatures over 1000 K. The science dealing with this phenomenon has been known as thermionics, but this name seems to be gradually falling into disuse.
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