cathode-ray tube

[ kath-ohd-rey ]
/ ˈkæθ oʊdˌreɪ /


a vacuum tube generating a focused beam of electrons that can be deflected by electric fields, magnetic fields, or both. The terminus of the beam is visible as a spot or line of luminescence caused by its impinging on a sensitized screen at one end of the tube. Cathode-ray tubes were formerly commonly used to study the shapes of electric waves, to reproduce images in television receivers, to display alphanumeric and graphical information on computer monitors, as an indicator in radar sets, etc. Abbreviation: CRT

Origin of cathode-ray tube

First recorded in 1900–05

British Dictionary definitions for cathode-ray tube

cathode-ray tube


a valve in which a beam of high-energy electrons is focused onto a fluorescent screen to give a visible spot of light. The device, with appropriate deflection equipment, is used in television receivers, visual display units, oscilloscopes, etc Abbreviation: CRT

Scientific definitions for cathode-ray tube

cathode-ray tube

A sealed tube in which electrons are emitted by a heated, negatively charged element (the cathode), and travel in a beam toward a positively charged plate (the anode). Depending on the properties of the plate and the speed of the electrons, cathode-ray tubes can generate x-rays, visible light, and other frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. They are central to most television screens, in which the electron beams form images on a phosphor-coated screen.

A Closer Look

Cathode-ray tubes (CRTs), also called electron-ray tubes, provide the visual display in such devices as conventional television sets, computer monitors, hospital heart monitors, and laboratory oscilloscopes. CRTs are generally made of funnel-shaped glass vacuum tubes. At the larger end of the tube is a phosphor-coated screen, and at the other end is an electron gun. The gun consists of a heated cathode, or negative electrode, which emits electrons, and a control grid, which controls the intensity of the beam of electrons to vary the brightness of the image. The gun directs the electron beam, or cathode ray, toward the screen, where a positively charged anode attracts the electrons. Outside the tube, coils creating a magnetic field or plates creating an electric field both focus and steer the beam. Wherever the beam strikes the screen, it causes the phosphors to glow. Shapes and images can be formed by manipulating the beam so that its focal point on the screen sweeps across it in various paths and with different brightness. In most CRTs, the beam follows a zigzag path that covers the entire screen many times per second. Color screens use three separate beams that strike three individually colored phosphor cells (having the three primary colors red, blue, and green) that are very close together. The color combinations appear to the eye (at a distance to the screen) as one point of a single color.

Cultural definitions for cathode-ray tube

cathode-ray tube

A device that can produce an image on a screen with electrical impulses.

notes for cathode-ray tube

The standard television screen is a sophisticated CRT, as are some of the screens on which computer output is displayed. Increasingly, flat-panel displays are replacing CRTs.