Photocathode Research for Electron Accelerators

McCarter, James, Engineering Physics - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Norum, Blaine, Department of Physics, University of Virginia

This dissertation presents studies of two different types of photocathodes used at electron accelerators: GaAs and K2CsSb. The spin polarization of photoelectrons extracted from GaAs photocathodes was evaluated using traditional one-photon absorption and two-photon absorption, to determine the validity of speculation that two-photon absorption would provide significantly higher polarization. To accomplish this study, a novel compact, retarding-field Mott polarimeter was designed, built and commissioned. The second type of photocathode, K2CsSb, was manufactured at Brookhaven National Laboratory and transported to Jefferson Lab in an ultrahigh vacuum “suitcase” and installed within a DC high voltage gun. Charge lifetime measurements were made using a K2CsSb photocathode and compared to those of GaAs under identical operating conditions. The surface morphology of the used K2CsSb was also studied.

Many important atomic, nuclear and high energy physics experiments rely on using highly spin-polarized electron beams obtained via photoemission from GaAs photocathodes. Remarkably, even after 30 years of GaAs photogun operation, there are still some lingering questions associated with the beam polarization values being lower than expected. Bulk GaAs can theoretically provide 50% polarization but typically provides ~ 35%. Reduced polarization is attributed to a number of proposed depolarization mechanisms. Recently, it was proposed that two-photon absorption could be exploited to selectively populate the conduction band with electrons of just one spin state providing 100% polarization. These claims were refuted by others on theoretical grounds. In this thesis, for the first time, two-photon photoemission was demonstrated with beam delivered to a novel polarimeter constructed for this experiment. Polarization was found to be comparable to that obtained with conventional one-photon absorption, and to converge to the same value with a reduction in thickness of the active layer, thereby providing additional experimental insight to the polarized photoemission process an depolarization mechanisms in GaAs.

Many proposed accelerators (light sources, energy recovery linacs and electron cooling machines) require extremely high average beam current (~ 100mA). The highest average current accelerator today, the FEL at JLab, can operate at up to 10mA and relies on photoemission from GaAs, even though spin polarization is not required. GaAs is an extremely delicate material, prone to failure and requiring ultrahigh vacuum conditions. In the early 1990s, the multi-alkali photocathode K2CsSb was used to demonstrate 32mA average current inside an RF gun with poor vacuum characteristics. This experiment lasted just minutes and was terminated shortly after the high current milestone was met. Based on this early work, many people believe K2CsSb represents a much better photocathode choice for unpolarized accelerator applications, providing high current for long periods of time and under less stringent operating conditions, but a detailed comparative study using the same apparatus has not been done. To address the high current reliability issue, two K2CsSb photocathodes were manufactured at Brookhaven National Lab and transported to Jefferson Lab via an ultrahigh vacuum transport chamber. They were installed within a 200kV DC high voltage photogun. Systematic charge lifetime measurements were performed using both photocathode materials under identical conditions. The performance of K2CsSb was shown to be highly dependent on extracted current. By combining this decay behavior with surface science measurements of the used photocathodes, it was shown that heat quickly disrupts the capability of the K2CsSb photocathode.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
photocathode, polarization, GaAs, K2CsSb, polarimeter, two-photon, two photon
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