In the first decade of our century, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) became a wonderful emitting material for field-emission (FE) of electrons. The carbon nanotube field-emission (CNT-FE) cathodes showed the possibility of low threshold voltage, therefore low power operation, together with a long lifetime, high brightness, and coherent beams of electrons. Thanks to this, CNT-FE cathodes have come ahead of increasing demand for novel self-sustaining and miniaturized devices performing as X-ray tubes, X-ray spectrometers, and electron microscopes, which possess low weight and might work without the need of the specialized equipped room, e.g., in a harsh environment and inaccessible-so-far areas. In this review, the author discusses the current state of CNT-FE cathode research using CNT suspensions. Included in this review are the basics of cathode operation, an evaluation, and fabrication techniques. The cathodes are compared based on performance and correlated issues. The author includes the advancement in field-emission enhancement by postprocess treatments, incorporation of fillers, and the use of film coatings with lower work functions than that of CNTs. Each approach is discussed in the context of the CNT-FE cathode operating factors. Finally, we discuss the issues and perspectives of the CNT-FE cathode research and development.
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