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Ectons are explosive electron emissions observed as individual packets or avalanches of electrons, occurring as microexplosions at the cathode. The electron current in an ecton starts flowing as a result of overheating of the metal cathode because of the high energy density (104Jg−1), and stops when the emission zone cools off.
An ecton consists of individual portions of electrons (1011– 1012 particles). The formation time is of the order of nanoseconds.