In a photomultiplier or Phototube, a photocathode is a negatively charged electrode coated with a photosensitive compound. When this is struck by light, electrons are emitted due to the photoelectric effect.
Additional recommended knowledge
Although a plain metallic cathode will exhibit photoelectric properties, the specialized coating greatly increases the effect. A photocathode usually consists of alkali metals with very low work functions.
The coating releases electrons much more readily than the underlying metal, allowing it to detect the low-energy photons in infrared radiation. The lens transmits the radiation from the object being viewed to a layer of coated glass. The photons strike the metal surface and transfer electrons to its rear side. The freed electrons are then collected to produce the final image.
- Ag-O-Cs, also called S-1. This was the first compound photocathode material, developed in 1929. Sensitivity from 300 mm to 1200 nm. Since Ag-O-Cs has a higher dark current than more modern materials photomultiplier tubes with this photocathode material are nowadays used only in the infrared region with cooling.
- Sb-Cs (antimony-cesium) has a spectral response from UV to visible and is mainly used in reflection-mode photocathodes.
- Bialkali (antimony-rubidium-cesium Sb-Rb-Cs, antimony-potassium-cesium Sb-K-Cs). Spectral response range similar to the Sb-Cs photocathode, but with higher sensitivity and lower dark current than Sb-Cs. They have sensitivity well matched to the most common scintillator materials and so are frequently used for ionizing radiation measurement in scintillation counters.
- High temperature bialkali or low noise bialkali (sodium-potassium-antimony, Na-K-Sb). This material is often used in oil well logging since it can withstand temperatures up to 175 °C. At room temperatures, this photocathode operates with very low dark current, making it ideal for use in photon counting applications.
- Multialkali (sodium-potassium-antimony-cesium, Na-K-Sb-Cs). The multialkali photocathode has a wide spectral response from the ultraviolet to near infrared region. It is widely used for broad-band spectrophotometers and photon counting applications. The long wavelength response can be extended to 930 nm by a special photocathode activation processing.
- GaAs (gallium(II) arsenide). This photocathode material covers a wider spectral response range than multialkali, from ultraviolet to 930 nm.
- InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide). Extended sensitivity in the infrared range compared to GaAs. Moreover, in the range between 900 mm and 1000 nm, InGaAs has a much better signal to noise ratio than Ag-O-Cs. With special manufacturing techniques this photocathode can operate up to 1700 nm.
- Cs-Te, Cs-I (cesium-telluride, cesium-iodide). These materials are sensitive to vacuum UV and UV rays but not to visible light and are therefore referred to as solar blind. Cs-Te is insensitive to wavelengths longer than 320 nm, and Cs-I to those longer than 200 nm.
by DEBASISH ROUT
- Photomultiplier Tubes Basics and Applications from Hamamatsu Photonics K.K.
- PHOTOMULTIPLIER TUBES : Principles & applications from PHOTONIS