Researchers' metallic glue may stick it to soldering and welding

January 8, 2016 by Thea Singer
Researchers’ metallic glue may stick it to soldering and welding
a) Coated rods are arranged along a substrate, like angled teeth on a comb. b) The teeth are then interlaced. c) When indium and galium come into contact, they form a liquid. d) The metal core of the rods turns that liquid into a solid. The resulting glue provides the strength and thermal/electrical conductance of a metal bond. From "Advanced Materials & Processes," January 2016

Perhaps no startup was launched for a more intriguing reason than that of Northeastern's Hanchen Huang. From the company website:

"MesoGlue was founded by Huang and two of his PhD students: They had a dream of a better way of sticking things together."

Those "things" are everything from a computer's central and a printed circuit board to the glass and metal filament in a . The "way" of attaching them is, astonishingly, a glue made out of metal that sets at and requires very little pressure to seal. "It's like welding or soldering but without the heat," says Huang, who is professor and chair in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

In a new paper, published in the January issue of Advanced Materials & Processes, Huang and colleagues, including Northeastern doctoral student Paul Elliott, describe their latest advances in the glue's development. Our curiosity was piqued: Soldering with no heat? We asked Huang to elaborate.

On new developments in the composition of the metallic glue:

"Both 'metal' and 'glue' are familiar terms to most people, but their combination is new and made possible by unique properties of metallic nanorods—infinitesimally small rods with metal cores that we have coated with the element indium on one side and galium on the other. These coated rods are arranged along a substrate like angled teeth on a comb: There is a bottom 'comb' and a top 'comb.' We then interlace the 'teeth.' When indium and galium touch each other, they form a liquid. The metal core of the rods acts to turn that liquid into a solid. The resulting glue provides the strength and thermal/electrical conductance of a metal bond. We recently received a new provisional patent for this development through Northeastern University."

A schematic illustrating applications of metallic glue: a) A CPU on a printed circuit board connected to a heat sink. b) A surface mount device being attached to a printed circuit board. c) A press-fit pipe fitting for environments where welding is dangerous or impossible. d) A glass plate being attached to metal with a different thermal-expansion coefficient to cover a cavity with a hermetic seal. From "Advanced Materials & Processes," January 2016

On the special properties of the metallic glue:

"The standard polymer glue does not function at high temperatures or high pressures, but the metallic glue does. The standard glue is not a great conductor of heat and/or electricity, but the metallic glue is. Furthermore, the standard glue is not very resistant to air or gas leaks, but the metallic glue is.

"'Hot' processes like soldering and welding can result in metallic connections that are similar to those produced with the metallic glue, but they cost much more. In addition, the high temperature necessary for these processes has deleterious effects on neighboring components, such as junctions in semiconductor devices. Such effects can speed up failure and not only increase cost but also prove dangerous to users."

What are some applications of the technology?

"The metallic glue has multiple applications, many of them in the electronics industry. As a heat conductor, it may replace the thermal grease currently being used, and as an electrical conductor, it may replace today's solders. Particular products include solar cells, pipe fittings, and components for computers and mobile devices."

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4.6 / 5 (5) Jan 08, 2016
I like to change heat sinks for PCs. Welding one on the old CPU is undesirable.
1.3 / 5 (6) Jan 08, 2016
If this stuff is anything like dollar store crazy glue, then it'll work for a while then stop working spontaneously when you depend on it to keep things together. For serious welding applications I think that I would stick to regular welding joints for now, until this stuff proves itself over time.
Uncle Ira
5 / 5 (10) Jan 08, 2016
Well I for one would like this stuffs if he works. It will sure come in handy for a lot things I mess around with.
4.6 / 5 (5) Jan 08, 2016
I agree on the heat sink thing. That doesn't seem practical for the end-user. However, for the OEM, it could be considered a positive thing and could possibly cut down on warranty repair costs.

Which leads to reversibility. Can components such as capacitors and the like be removed for servicing, for instance? No one does 100% testing of manufactured components. It's not entirely unheard of to encounter a component that is faulty or out-of-spec right off the tape / reel, necessitating it being replaced after assembly.

This also could have application in the "crimp" on connector field where mechanical retention and conductivity are important. But getting a compatible wire might be a bit more difficult.
4.6 / 5 (5) Jan 08, 2016
As the old Woodshop Axiom goes, Measure Twice, Cut Once. Probably you'll want to make sure your chips work before you glue-weld them all in forever. I suspect this will be mostly used in devices they don't expect you to ever open up, like consoles more than PCs. Thirded on using this on CPUs to replace thermal paste. As much as I hate thermal paste, I've had to replace CPUs and Fans before. I'm about to order my third water cooler for one PC.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2016
abecedarian, those components can be removed and replaced with the right tools. Do you want to know more? https://en.wikipe...chnology
1 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2016
abecedarian claims
No one does 100% testing of manufactured components
Um are you really sure its "No one" across the electronics manufacturing industry, world is a big place ?

There are great many co's that include spec testing as part of reel generation process & especially so as its easy to be a very fast process seamless with reel population without burdening throughput, dependent of course upon device's nature & scope of testing. Eg resistors vs CPU dies etc In any case, it can be excluded as option to lower cost but even then cost differential is very low for simple devices...

abecedarian says
It's not entirely unheard of to encounter a component that is faulty or out-of-spec right off the tape / reel, necessitating it being replaced after assembly
Sure but, many of these have been reported as structural/contamination failures significant at reel edges some traced to placement handling practices

It all depends but, "No one" I Really Doubt that !
1 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2016
Indium, Gallium = not cost effective
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 10, 2016
MWS suggested
Indium, Gallium = not cost effective
No. Industrial grade Gallium is cost effective, oddly enough sold on ebay partly as low MP curio Eg spoons

NB Indium, is comparatively similar in price (Eg 10g)

Perhaps someone can look up their account on Johnson Mathey & give us a quote ;-)

I live in Western Australia where we have sizable Bauxite sources as feed for Aluminium (Al) production, Gallium is often found with Al, trick is to separate it & depending upon required Al structural grade is useful to do so as Gallium can cause embrittlement, its also mobile...

For small quantities used in pictured application, primarily heatsinks, where there is existing structural support it would be fine...

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