Cold cathode
A cold cathode is a cathode
A cathode is an electrode through which electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: CCD .Cathode polarity is not always negative...

 used within nixie tube
Nixie tube
A nixie tube is an electronic device for displaying numerals or other information. The glass tube contains a wire-mesh anode and multiple cathodes. In most tubes, the cathodes are shaped like numerals. Applying power to one cathode surrounds it with an orange glow discharge...

s, gas discharge lamps, discharge tubes, and some types of vacuum tube
Vacuum tube
In electronics, a vacuum tube, electron tube , or thermionic valve , reduced to simply "tube" or "valve" in everyday parlance, is a device that relies on the flow of electric current through a vacuum...

 which is not electrically heated by the circuit to which it is connected. Such a cathode may be heated to a high temperature in normal circuit operation.
A cold-cathode vacuum tube does not rely on external heating of an electrode to provide thermionic emission
Thermionic emission
Thermionic emission is the heat-induced flow of charge carriers from a surface or over a potential-energy barrier. This occurs because the thermal energy given to the carrier overcomes the binding potential, also known as work function of the metal. The charge carriers can be electrons or ions, and...

 of electrons. Early cold-cathode devices included the Geissler tube
Geissler tube
A Geissler tube is an early gas discharge tube used to demonstrate the principles of electrical glow discharge. The tube was invented by the German physicist and glassblower Heinrich Geissler in 1857...

 and Plucker tube
Julius Plücker
Julius Plücker was a German mathematician and physicist. He made fundamental contributions to the field of analytical geometry and was a pioneer in the investigations of cathode rays that led eventually to the discovery of the electron. He also vastly extended the study of Lamé curves.- Early...

, and early cathode ray tube
Cathode ray tube
The cathode ray tube is a vacuum tube containing an electron gun and a fluorescent screen used to view images. It has a means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam onto the fluorescent screen to create the images. The image may represent electrical waveforms , pictures , radar targets and...