Gap size dependence of the dielectric strength in nano vacuum gaps

David Lyon, Alfred Hubler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the dielectric strength of vacuum gaps of under 100 nm. We find their dielectric strengths to have a power law dependence on the gap size. We apply this power law to find that the dielectric strength of a vacuum gap of 10 nm between two tungsten electrodes is 6.5 V/nm. The dielectric strength can be used to compute the maximum energy density, charge density, and power density. For tungsten, the maximum volumetric energy density is 190 MJ/m3. Nano vacuum gaps can discharge in 10 nanoseconds, giving a maximum gravitometric power density of 1012 W/kg. While the external discharge time is a few nanoseconds, the self-discharge time can be hours or days. The specific capacitance of a vacuum gap of size d is C = ε0/d2. If d = 10nm then C = 8.85×104 F/m3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6571470
Pages (from-to)1467-1471
Number of pages5
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Capacitors
  • nanoelectronics
  • vacuum breakdown

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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