Researchers at Northeastern University have developed a metallic glue that may soon make soldering and welding obsolete. The team led by Hanchen Huang, professor and chair in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, set out to create a better way to stick things together.
The glue was created to attach everything from a computer’s central processing unit and a printed circuit board to the glass and metal filament in a light bulb. The metal adhesive sets at room temperature and requires almost no pressure to seal.
The team achieved this technology by coating metallic nanorods—infinitesimally small rods with metal cores—with the element indium on one side and galium on the other. These coated rods are arranged at an angle to act like teeth on a comb. The teeth on the top “comb” interlace the teeth on the bottom, and when the indium and galium touch each other, they form a liquid.
The resulting glue has the thermal and electrical conductance of a metal bond, which makes it a good alternative to soldering and welding. In fact, hot processes are not only expensive and dangerous, they have deleterious effects on neighboring components such as junctions in semiconductor devices. These effects can speed up failure and prove dangerous to users.
The metallic glue has many applications, most of them in the electronics industry. Particular products that the adhesive may be used on include solar cells, pipe fittings, and components for computers and mobile devices.