Super-Emitron

A video camera tube developed in the mid-1930s by EMI to replace the original iconoscope.

The Super-Emitron was a video camera tube developed in the mid-1930s to replace the original iconoscope. The original iconoscope was noisy, had a high ratio of interference to signal, and ultimately gave disappointing results, especially when compared to the high definition mechanical scanning systems then becoming available. The EMI team under the supervision of Isaac Shoenberg analyzed how the Emitron (or iconoscope) produces an electronic signal and concluded that its real efficiency was only about 5% of the theoretical maximum. This is because secondary electrons released from the mosaic of the charge storage plate when the scanning beam sweeps across it may be attracted back to the positively charged mosaic, thus neutralizing many of the stored charges. Lubszynski, Rodda, and McGee realized that the best solution was to separate the photo-emission function from the charge storage one, and so communicated their results to Zworykin.

The new video camera tube developed by Lubszynski, Rodda, and McGee in 1934 was dubbed "the super-Emitron". This tube is a combination of the image dissector and the Emitron. It has an efficient photocathode that transforms the scene light into an electron image; the latter is then accelerated towards a target specially prepared for the emission of secondary electrons. Each individual electron from the electron image produces several secondary electrons after reaching the target so that an amplification effect is produced. The target is constructed of a mosaic of electrically isolated metallic granules separated from a common plate by a thin layer of isolating material, so that the positive charge resulting from the secondary emission is stored in the granules. Finally, an electron beam periodically sweeps across the target, effectively scanning the stored image, discharging each granule, and producing an electronic signal like in the iconoscope.

The super-Emitron was between ten and fifteen times more sensitive than the original Emitron and iconoscope tubes and, in some cases, this ratio was considerably greater. It was used for an outside broadcast by the BBC, for the first time, on Armistice Day 1937, when the general public could watch in a television set how the King laid a wreath at the Cenotaph. This was the first time that anyone could broadcast a live street scene from cameras installed on the roof of neighboring buildings.

On the other hand, in 1934, Zworykin shared some patent rights with the German licensee company Telefunken. The image iconoscope (Superikonoskop in Germany) was produced as a result of the collaboration. This tube is essentially identical to the super-Emitron, but the target is constructed of a thin layer of isolating material placed on top of a conductive base, the mosaic of metallic granules is missing. The production and commercialization of the super-Emitron and image iconoscope in Europe were not affected by the patent war between Zworykin and Farnsworth, because Dieckmann and Hell had priority in Germany for the invention of the image dissector, having submitted a patent application for their Lichtelektrische Bildzerlegerröhre für Fernseher (Photoelectric Image Dissector Tube for Television) in Germany in 1925, two years before Farnsworth did the same in the United States.

The image iconoscope (Superikonoskop) became the industrial standard for public broadcasting in Europe from 1936 until 1960 when it was replaced by the vidicon and plumbicon tubes. Indeed, it was the representative of the European tradition in electronic tubes competing against the American tradition represented by the image orthicon. The German company Heimann produced the Superikonoskop for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, later Heimann also produced and commercialized it from 1940 to 1955, finally the Dutch company Philips produced and commercialized the image iconoscope and multicon from 1952 to 1958.

Operation

The super-Emitron is a combination of the image dissector and the Emitron. The scene image is projected onto an efficient continuous-film semitransparent photocathode that transforms the scene light into a light-emitted electron image, the latter is then accelerated (and focused) via electromagnetic fields towards a target specially prepared for the emission of secondary electrons. Each individual electron from the electron image produces several secondary electrons after reaching the target so that an amplification effect is produced, and the resulting positive charge is proportional to the integrated intensity of the scene light. The target is constructed of a mosaic of electrically isolated metallic granules separated from a common plate by a thin layer of isolating material so that the positive charge resulting from the secondary emission is stored in the capacitor formed by the metallic granule and the common plate. Finally, an electron beam periodically sweeps across the target, effectively scanning the stored image and discharging each capacitor in turn such that the electrical output from each capacitor is proportional to the average intensity of the scene light between each discharge event (as in the iconoscope).

The image iconoscope is essentially identical to the super-Emitron, but the target is constructed of a thin layer of isolating material placed on top of a conductive base, the mosaic of metallic granules is missing. Therefore, secondary electrons are emitted from the surface of the isolating material when the electron image reaches the target, and the resulting positive charges are stored directly onto the surface of the isolated material.

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Super-Emitron
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Adapted from content published on wikipedia.org
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Last modified on May 22, 2021, 6:59 pm
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