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VALVES & THERMIONIC EMISSION
OK, people who speak “American English” tend to call these “tubes”. However I ll use the word “!alve” as • I am "ritish and #almost$% speak “English” rather than “American”. • It s simpler than calling them something like “!acuum&state 'hermionic (evices” all the time$
Thermionic Emission )etals at room temperature have a lot o* electrons inside them which can move around in response to an applied electromagnetic *ield. However under normal conditions the negative charges on all these electrons are cancelled out b+ the positive charges on the atoms o* the metal. I* we heat up the metal, however, we give the electrons more kinetic energ+. 'his ma+ mean that some have so much energ+ that the+ can ,leap out o* the piece o* metal into its surroundings. However when the+ do this the metal, having lost an electron, now has a positive charge. 'he result is an electrostatic attraction between the #negativel+ charged% electrons that have leapt out o* the metal and the #positivel+ charged% metal the+ have le*t. 'his tends to pull them back. 'he result o* the above is to produce what is called a “space charge e**ect”. 'he hot metal becomes surrounded b+ a “cloud” o* electrons, that have -umped out o* the metal, but are then drawn back b+ the attraction between the electron and the metal. 'aken overall, the s+stem is still electricall+ neutral since we have the negative electrons and the positive metal. Add their charges and we still can get .ero. It is -ust that some o* the negative charge is ,displaced *rom the metal to its surrounding. In this case, i* we heat one o* the metal pieces o* our diode valve it becomes surrounded b+ this space charge. 'he usual practice with valves is to use the heated metal as a cathode / i.e. as the part o* the s+stem that will suppl+ electrons when we appl+ suitable voltages. Hence as +ou ll see with the circuit s+mbols shown later, the cathode o*ten has two leads. 'his allows us to pass a current though the cathode and heat it up. 'he above e0planation leaves out lots o* details. 1or e0ample, it is possible *or some material sur*aces to create a space charge around them even i* we use them at room temperature. However here I ll ignore such details as the valves
boiling o** the metal sur*ace and then #usuall+$% *alling back again.PY@GMAIL. 'he most basic was the earliest t+pe that was invented. 'his propert+ o* ..boiling o** electrons is called . 'he result is illustrated in the above diagram. 3hen we heat up the metal we get a cloud o* electrons that are .COM . surrounded b+ an envelope which allows them to operate in a vacuum. 'his is the 'hermionic (iode.'hermionic Emission as the emission o* electrons is produced b+ the heat. PHUNGUYEN. Diode Valves 'he easiest wa+ to understand how valves work is to start with the simplest t+pes and work upwards to the more complicated ones.Electrodes .2 -9 that are used most widel+ do re2uire the cathode to be heated *or the valve to work. It basicall+ consists o* two parts or .
3 -9 'he standard circuit s+mbol *or a diode valve is as shown above.g. PHUNGUYEN. 'o start. lets consider connecting the diode up as shown below. depending on the pre*erences o* the person who drew the diagram$% 'he anode and cathode are made o* good conductors #e.PY@GMAIL.. but are separated b+ an insulating envelope and the vacuum inside. metals%. #4lease note. that the s+mbols ma+ di**er a little *rom one diagram to another. though.COM .
.. then as some electrons gather on the PHUNGUYEN. I* we do this we get a surprising result.. 7ote that in this case the positive and negative signs shown on the above diagram don t represent voltages we have applied *rom an e0ternal source. As a result a number o* electrons end up sitting on the anode that have crossed the vacuum to reach it. H5 and H6.COM . it will grab an+ electrons that hit it. 3hat is happening is that when we heat the cathode we create a cloud o* electrons in the vacuum near the sur*ace o* the cathode.ling as we seem to have created electrical power *rom nowhere and perhaps violated the law o* energ+ conservation$ Is this the solution to our global energ+ crisis and we can give up *ossil *uels9. 3e *ind that the anode develops a negative potential with respect to the cathode. I* we don t connect the anode to an+thing. )ost o* these electrons will sta+ near the cathode. "ut a *ew will have energ+ to leap *ar enough *rom the cathode to be able to cross the vacuum and strike the anode.PY@GMAIL. and some current will *low through the resistor. :ince the anode isn t heated.. 'he+ indicate what the valve generates$ 8nless we know what is happening inside the diode this result is pu. and the+ won t have enough kinetic energ+ to escape it again. 3e have also connected the cathode and anode together via a resistor. A*raid not.4 -9 Here what we have done is heat the cathode b+ appl+ing a voltage between the two cathode heater leads.
'he broken blue lines with arrowheads in the above diagram show the direction o* the electron *low. thus continuing the *low. One o* the most important o* these *actors is the details o* the sur*ace o* the cathode. 'hese include the temperature o* the cathode. insulated *rom the e0ternal outer sur*ace that acts as the electron emitter<cathode.5 -9 anode the+ give it a negative charge. the arrivals can *low back .home to the cathode via the path through the resistor. to A #positive to negative potential%. etc. 'he energ+ which we see dissipating as the electrons pass through the resistor is part o* the kinetic energ+ which the+ removed *rom the cathode when the+ were *lung out o* it b+ the thermal motions inside the cathode. the distance to the anode.ero volts. 'hus in conventional terms we d sa+ a current *lows through the resistor *rom .leakage when the potential di**erence between anode and cathode is around . its sur*ace area. and also helps avoid an+ o* the heater voltages or currents *rom a**ecting signals on the actual cathode. 'his would tend to produce a negative potential. Alas. 'his is 2uite deliberate as in most applications we want the diode to have ver+ low current ..COM .Indirectl+ Heated cathode. PHUNGUYEN. Hence the energ+ is drawn *rom the heat we supplied to the cathode. (espite this. However note that *or da*t historical reasons we de*ine . since we have to suppl+ energ+ to the cathode to drive this process.PY@GMAIL. the anode potential relative to the cathode becomes less negative and some more electrons will have enough energ+ to cross the vacuum gap. Hence unless we give the arriving electrons some wa+ to escape. )ost practical valves have cathodes which are treated or coated to enhance their abilit+ to release electrons when heated. no perpetual motion or energ+ crisis solution. the actual current level we get i* we carr+ out the above e0periment tends to be ver+ small. In practice it is also usual *or a valve to have an . which then tends to repel an+ other electrons that approach the anode. the+ build up until the+ repel an+ *urther borders$ However i* we connect the anode back to the cathode via an e0ternal resistor. with most practical valves. 'his gives more *le0ibilit+ in choice o* materials. As the+ do this. 'his means that the heater element is a wire inside the cathode. 'he amount o* current we d see will depend on various *actors.conventional current to be in the opposite direction to the actual electron *low. 3hen we wish to represent the presence o* an indirectl+ heated cathode the circuit s+mbol is altered as indicated below.
pentodes.COM . (IO(E: = '>IO(E: Diode Characteristics 7ow consider what happens when we deliberatel+ appl+ a potential di**erence between the cathode and the anode and look to discover what e**ect that will have on the *low o* electrons. i* there is onl+ one wire shown connected to the cathode we can assume that the valve is indirectl+ heated. can be assumed to be present with almost an+ normal valve used in electronic circuits.. As a result man+ diagrams show s+mbols which look like the simple directl+ heated valve t+pe. but are actuall+ onl+ showing the cathode. 7ote that although the above shows diode valves.PY@GMAIL. PHUNGUYEN.6 -9 In practice it is *airl+ common to simpl+ omit showing the details o* the heater altogether. 'he giveawa+ *or what is being represented is indicated above. and the wiring that powers it. but the heater wiring is being le*t o** the diagram to make the diagram easier to read. etc. In particular. 'his simpli*ies circuit diagrams since the heater. and omitting showing the heater. the same conventions tend to appl+ *or other *orms o* valve such as triode.
PY@GMAIL. #7ote that the heater is working.% 3hen we appl+ a voltage to make the anode positive with respect to the cathode we attract the electrons in the vacuum space towards the anode. it does not tend to release an+ electrons itsel*. :ince the anode isn t hot. but the heater isn t shown. 'hus. and make it harder *or them to escape the cathode. 'he result is that when we appl+ a potential di**erence this wa+ around we tend to make it even PHUNGUYEN. and the cathode is hot.COM .7 -9 'he diagram above illustrates what happens when we appl+ a potential di**erence between the anode and the cathode. making it easier *or more to . making the anode positive relative to the cathode increases the current *low. and push them awa+ *rom the cathode. 'his has the e**ect o* making it easier *or electrons to reach the anode.. and make the anode negative with respect to the cathode we repel the electrons in the vacuum space awa+ *rom the anode. It also tends to reduce the densit+ o* electrons near the cathode. 'he result is that when we appl+ a potential di**erence this wa+ around we tend to increase the rate at which electrons *low *rom cathode to anode. 3hen we appl+ a voltage the other wa+ around.boil o** the cathode. 'his sign o* applied potential is called “1orward "ias”.
'he simplest o* these is the 'riode. It also ignores the small . but to obtain gain and be able to ampli*+ signals di**erent *orms o* valve were developed. and is a *actor whose value depends on the si. the current is almost nil. etc. I* +ou look in a basic te0tbook on 4h+sics or Electronics +ou ma+ *ind an anal+sis o* the behaviour o* a pair o* metal plates. As the name implies. The Triode (iodes are use*ul *or tasks like recti*+ing. this has three electrodes whereas a diode has -ust two. one o* which is heated. cathode. (espite these words o* caution. 'his has the *orm where is the anode&cathode current. the current tends to rise rapidl+ as we increase the voltage. 'he e0tra electrode is called a “@rid” as this describes its usual ph+sical *orm. since that is the usual arrangement. However we should treat this result with caution as it makes some simpli*+ing assumptions that o*ten do not describe a practical valve ver+ well. It is 2uite common *or the makers to put two actual diode arrangements into one vacuum container. and hence make a valve that *unctions as a pair o* diodes.leakage o* current we described earlier that occurs even i* we don t appl+ an+ e0ternal voltage. the circuit s+mbols *or these show two anodes and one cathode. is the potential di**erence between anode and cathode.PY@GMAIL.COM . the basic behaviour is that when *orward biassed.hild s ?aw. and when reverse biassed.e and shape o* the anode. and the device does not obe+ Ohm s ?aw.ero. 'he variation o* current with voltage is also nonlinear. 'his leads to an algebraic e0pression that describes how the current tends to var+ with the applied voltage.. '+picall+. 'his is the basic recti*+ing behaviour which we associated with diodes in electronics. PHUNGUYEN. 'his sign o* applied potential is called “>everse "ias”.8 -9 harder *or an+ electrons to cross the vacuum space. 'he current *low is there*ore almost . 'his relationship is called . Hence we can also use valve diodes as nonlinear devices.
PY@GMAIL. 'he grid is a *ine mesh or winding o* wire. and that due to the grid. a potential di**erence between grid and cathode. PHUNGUYEN. a potential di**erence between anode and cathode.COM . a given voltage on the grid e0erts much more *orce on electrons near the cathode than would the same voltage on the more distant anode. 'hese are applied as indicated in the above diagram. 'he electric *ield produced b+ a potential di**erence depends on how close together the ob-ects are located.. 3e can now consider appl+ing potential di**erences in two wa+sA • • . 8suall+ it is located much nearer to the cathode than the anode. 'his means the current is much more sensitive to changes in the grid voltage than to changes in the anode voltage. Electrons in the space charge region near the cathode now e0perience an electric *ield which has two components & that due to the anode. :ince the grid is close to the cathode. placed in between the anode and cathode.9 -9 'he above diagram represents a triode arrangement. .
?et s assume that we have a triode where the distance between the anode and cathode is 5B mm. 'he result o* this *ield will be to tend to set up a stead+ *low o* electrons. or even cut o**. value is o*ten called the valve s “Amplification Factor”. 3e can use a modi*ied version o* the . However. the electrons near the cathode would see no net electric *ield due to the presence o* the anode and grid. 'his means that we can -ust add together the *ields produced b+ di**erent elements or ob-ects provided we get the signs and directions correct. and . and the *low *rom cathode to anode would drop to almost . i* we now appl+ a potential o*. 3e start o** b+ appl+ing a potential o* C6BB !olts to the anode with respect to the cathode. and hence a large anode&cathode current. As a result o* the *ield superposition. var+.1 -9 'o understand what this implies we can use an e0ample..COM . and having the grid near the cathode. 'he result o* the &5B !olts on the grid is almost as i* we had turned down the anode voltage attracting the electrons b+ 5BB !olts$ Indeed.PY@GMAIL.*orward bias means that on both the applied 'he . we can there*ore use relativel+ small voltage variations on the grid to control. sa+. One o* the basic rules o* electromagnetic *ields in space is “1ield :uperposition”. 'he value *or a PHUNGUYEN. the values above mean that we d get a resulting *ield near the cathode o* 6B & 5B D 5B !olts<mm. but the grid is -ust 5 mm *rom the cathode. i* we d increased the grid voltage to &6B !olts. the anode&cathode current level.ero. A small change in grid voltage can be used to produce much larger variations in voltage and current at the anode. However in this case . In this case. 'his has the e**ect o* producing an electric *ield near the cathode o* C6BB<5B D 6B !olts<mm which tends to tr+ and accelerate electrons in the space towards the anode. 'his behaviour is the basis o* how we can then use valves like a 'riode to ampli*+ signals. &5B !olts to the grid with respect to the cathode this produces an electric *ield near the cathode o* &5B<5 D &5B !olts<mm. so depends potentials.hild s ?aw e2uation to estimate what we can e0pect the anode&cathode current we get to appro0imatel+ be when *orward biassed.ero / as with the diode / when reverse biassed.
close to the cathode. Instead. However there are all kinds o* detailed e**ects and problems I have ignored here. In normal use. unless we appl+ a large enough negative voltage to the grid to push the electrons awa+.11 -9 given design o* valve will depend on various details / the obvious one being that we get a higher value i* we can hold the grid ver+ near to the cathode. which also limit what can be made. It tends to mean putting the grid closer to the cathode. and three grids. so reducing the ampli*ication *actor *or that reason. most o* the electrons tend to *l+ through the gaps between the wires o* the grid. :ince we tr+ to put the grid near the cathode. . 'hese e0tra grids are included to tr+ and deal with some o* the practical drawbacks o* the triode. and more electrons then tend to hit the grid. 'hese don t all use triodes. some use 4entodes. it also tends to weaken the abilit+ o* the grid to appl+ an electric *ield to its surroundings.e o* the wires in the grid.O)4?I. In practice. real triodes tend to have ampli*ication *actor values somewhere in the range 5B / 5BB. but some will hit the grid and be lost *rom the anode&cathode current. Hence there is a tendenc+ *or the grid to pick up a *low o* electrons *rom the space charge cloud o* electrons. As the name implies. an anode.PY@GMAIL. we can e0pect it to be in or near the region where the space charge densit+ is signi*icant. Alas. where the charge densit+ is high. and cut o** the *low through the valve.. PHUNGUYEN. 'his is leads to one o* the possible di**iculties o* tr+ing to make a triode with a high ampli*ication *actor. A)4?I1IE> = )O>E .utting down on the si. a pentode has *ive electrodes / a cathode.COM . or placing them *urther apart ma+ reduce the grid current.A'E( !A?!E: I* +ou have an interest in a topic like audio<hi&*i +ou ma+ alread+ know that valve ampli*iers are still popular with some enthusiasts.
'he . i.. PHUNGUYEN. 3e can do this b+ using the circuits shown below.COM . it is where we input the signal that controls the anode&cathode current.ontrol @rid is the electrode that acts in the same wa+ as the single grid in a triode.PY@GMAIL. 'he .12 -9 'he usual s+mbol *or a pentode valve is shown above. 'o understand their purpose let s consider some o* the practical problems that arise with the triode valve..:uppressor @rid and .e.:creen @rid are the additional electrodes.
so i* +ou look in te0tbooks +ou will see various. b+ a small amount we wish to arrange that the output. 'he arrangement on the le*t uses a triode. However the simple circuits illustrated above will serve to show the *unctions o* the new grids. 'he result is that to change the potential di**erences between the electrodes we have to charge<discharge these capacitances. we want the ampli*ier to provide a reasonabl+ large voltage gain. arrangements which di**er in detail *rom the above. :ince we have arranged *or both circuits to show a high gain. more comple0.13 -9 'he above illustration shows two simple arrangements that we might use as e0perimental ampli*iers. . will change b+ a much larger amount. 7ow in practice the electrodes are all conducting ob-ects placed close together.COM . 8suall+. 'hat on the right uses a pentode.. 'his means that when we change the input voltage. 'his means there will be some capacitance between them. 7ote that the above circuits aren t actuall+ ver+ use*ul as practical ampli*iers. 'his means that we ma+ have to provide 2uite high input currents to the control grid i* we wish to change the grid PHUNGUYEN. we can e0pect that when we change b+ a small amount. . . In each case the intention is that we use the control #signal% grid *or our input and the anode *or our output. changes b+ a much larger amount.PY@GMAIL.
An+ that remain around the anode ma+ produce an unwanted negative space charge which will deter *resh electrons *rom arriving *rom the cathode.COM .14 -9 voltage #and hence also the anode voltage ver+ 2uickl+. :ome o* the electrons which travel *rom the cathode and hit the anode ma+ arrive with enough kinetic energ+ to knock *ree some electrons *rom the anode. Hence it tends to reduce the e**ective capacitance between the control grid and the anode.kink in the wa+ the anode voltage varies as we change the input voltage on the control grid. placed near the anode. 'his tends to restrict the abilit+ o* the triode to ampli*+ at high *re2uencies. However most o* the electrons knocked out o* the anode will have a relativel+ small amount o* kinetic energ+. 'hese ma+ then inter*ere with the valve operation in various wa+s. :ome valves onl+ have two grids / the control grid and the screen grid / and are called tetrodes. but should indicate wh+ pentodes ma+ be pre*erred over triodes o* we wish to obtain high gain and high PHUNGUYEN. and have little e**ect on the valve s gain. the+ tend either to *all back to the anode. Others ma+ strike the grids.. )ost o* the electrons coming *rom the cathode *l+ through the gaps in all the grids as the+ have been given a lot o* kinetic energ+ b+ the cathode&anode potential di**erence. making it easier *or the valve to be used at higher *re2uencies than a triode. etc. 'his grid uses -ust a *ew wires. or dri*t into the nearest grid / which is now the suppressor grid. so tends to . 'his grid is held at a stead+ potential midwa+ between that on the anode and the cathode or control grid. However simple tetrodes have their own problems.. or even the cathode. 'he :uppressor @rid is emplo+ed to catch electrons that have been released *rom the anode. and the result is a distortion or .PY@GMAIL. :o most o* them whi. Having done this. 'he result is that less current is needed to drive the input signal variations o* the control grid. 'he pentode s :creen @rid is used as an electrostatic screen in between the control grid and the anode. again producing unwanted *lows o* charge that degrade the operation o* the valve. 3hen this happens we could get 2uite a large unwanted *low o* electrons *rom the anode to the screen. As a result. the+ don t have an+ e**ect on the input current re2uired to drive the control grid.shield the control grid *rom seeing the changes in potential o* the anode. 'he above e0planations are 2uite simpli*ied. and usuall+ connected to the cathode potential. 'his problem can become particularl+ noticable i* we allow the variations o* the anode voltage to swing the anode s potential to being negative compared with the screen grid. past the wires in the grids.
PY@GMAIL.envelope to contain two actual valve devices. and shields the input signal *rom seeing a large input capacitance.COM .ontrol @rid is normall+ used to input the signal to be ampli*ied • 'he :uppressor @rid is normall+ connected to the same potential as the cathode so as to sweep awa+ an+ unwanted electrons liberated *rom the anode. 'his helps keep down the weight and si.e o* the devices. PHUNGUYEN. • 'he :creen @rid is normall+ connected to a stead+ potential somewhere in between the anode and cathode potentials. In practice it is 2uite common *or a single valve . 'he details o* the bias arrangements in practical circuits will var+ according to the re2uirements #and the pre*erences o* the designer$% but the basic idea is thatA • 'he ..15 -9 bandwidth. and ma+ allow them to share a heating arrangement *or their cathodes.
PY@GMAIL. and some audio enthusiasts continue to pre*er valve ampli*iers *or listening to music. !JA and !J" are another E.beam *orming plates that direct the electron *lows.Kinkless 'etrode . Although the+ have largel+ been replaced b+ solid&state devices in most applications. and serve the same *unction as the suppressor grid. the+ are actuall+ paired.?IG. 'he most well&known e0amples in the 8K being the K'GG and K'II.E. 'he valves shown as !HA and !H" are in the same glass envelope and sold as an . In *act audio output valves o*ten emplo+ed another *orm o* valve called the . the+ have been modi*ied internall+ to remove the . but the+ include a pair o* . PHUNGUYEN.K' in the t+pe numbers *or the K'GG and K'II stands *or . valves are still used *or special purposes. 'he above is onl+ a ver+ brie* introduction to the *amil+ o* thermionic valves. Kou will also see that the above diagram does show the output devices #!H " and !J"% as onl+ having two grids.?IG ."eam 'etrode . 'hese plates are internall+ connected to the cathode.16 -9 'he above shows an e0ample o* a simple. which implies the+ are tetrodes. 'he details o* this circuit are too comple0 to deal with here. hi&*i power ampli*ier design *rom the 5EFB s<5EGB s. :imilarl+. 'he . but i* +ou e0amine the circuit diagram +ou can see that although it shows *our gain devices.kink in the trans*er curve which I mentioned earlier. It lets us know that although these valves onl+ apparentl+ have *our electrodes.COM . 'hese tetrodes onl+ have connections *or *our electrodes.. perhaps old&*ashioned.