Coherers, a review

Research (PDF Available) · January 2016with 1,855 Reads
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1757.8009
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This is the 1993 thesis entitled "Coherers, a review" by Thomas Mark Cuff. The printed version of this document can be found in the main library at Temple University; a second printed copy is held in Temple's Electrical Engineering Department. The page count of the electronic version of this document is different from that of the printed version due to the conversion process used to go from the original Apple Macintosh file to a Microsoft Word 2003 file on a PC; the final file format is a PDF file produced with Apache OpenOffice 4.1.1. Keywords: coherer, coherers, MOM diode, STM, copper oxide rectifier, Beilby layer,vacuum arc, vacuum spark, quantum tunneling, tunnel effect.
A Thesis
in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Temple University
Thomas Mark Cuff
August 1993
Dr. Brian P. Butz Dr. Thomas E. Sullivan,
Chairman, Electrical Electrical Engineering,
Engineering Thesis Advisor
Dr. Richard D. Klafter Dr. Vallorie Peridier,
Director, Graduate Studies, Mechanical Engineering,
Electrical Engineering Thesis Committee Member
Dr. Thomas J. Ward Dr. Richard D. Klafter,
Associate Dean of Electrical Engineering,
Engineering Thesis Committee Member
Dr. Charles K. Alexander
Acting Dean of
Thomas Mark Cuff
All Rights Reserved
The first known radio frequency detector was the coherer, and even
though this device has been around for over a century there is still no generally
accepted explanation of how it works. A historical review of the different
realizations of the coherer together with any investigations that might help
illuminate its inner workings was under taken. As a result of the historical review,
it became clear that the coherer evolved directly into the MOM (Metal-Oxide-
Metal) ‘diode’ and, by only a slightly more circuitous route, it appeared as the
forerunner to the STM (Scanning Tunneling Microscope). The MOM ‘diode’,
besides being a progeny of the coherer, has something else in common with the
coherer, no generally accepted explanation of how it works. Examining the
history of the STM, from its nascent form (circa 1901) to its present day
configuration, revealed along the way an explanation for bridge formation, i.e.
cohering of coherers. In addition, in the course of reviewing some of the work
done in the mid 1920s on coherer behavior, information surfaced that helps shed
some light on the so-called positive and negative coherer behavior.
Lastly, the approach taken in this thesis, wherein the coherer was related
to the MOM ‘diode’ and the STM, was found to have been completely anticipated
by three papers (circa 1918-1924) written by Angelika Maria Josefa Székely de
No effort is ever truly an individual one. Even Sir Isaac Newton admitted as to
how he had stood “…upon the shoulders of Giants.” If I have managed to
accomplish anything intellectually worthwhile in this thesis, it was only because of
my clambering onto various shoulders. I should now like to thank those who
helped me. First, my mother and father, Camille and Howard Cuff, for their
encouragement, support and for their providing a quiet place for me to study and
write. Second, my advisor, Dr. Thomas E. Sullivan, who allowed me to choose
‘coherers’ as my thesis topic and who then suggested that there might be useful
and revealing links between coherers and MOM (Metal-Oxide-Metal) ‘diodes’ and
STMs (Scanning Tunneling Microscopes) - there indeed were. I also wish to
thank him for the innumerable hours he spent listening to my verbal discourses
on the subject of this thesis, and for providing me with much needed pep talks
when I became discouraged. Third, I wish to thank the other members of my
thesis committee, Dr. Vallorie Peridier and Dr. Richard D. Klafter, for having read
the various drafts of my thesis - a not inconsiderable task considering its size -

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