New Metallic Glue Can Solder Materials Without Heat

Nanotechnology experts Hanchen Huang and colleagues from Northeastern University have created a unique glue with the ability to bind metal to metal, and glass to many other materials. The glue sets at room temperature, and only needs a little pressure to seal.

Hanchen Huang and colleagues, experts in nanotechnology, have developed a glue that binds metal to metal to glass to you-name-it, sets at room temperature, and requires little pressure to seal. (Photo credit: Northeastern University)

The purpose for launching the startup, MesoGlue, is explained on the company’s website - "MesoGlue was founded by Huang and two of his PhD students: They had a dream of a better way of sticking things together."

The “things” referred to here include everything from a computer’s cen­tral pro­cessing unit and a printed cir­cuit board to the glass and metal fil­a­ment in a light bulb. The glue is made out of metal and it sets at room temperature, it also requires very little pressure to seal.  “It’s like welding or soldering but without the heat,” says Huang, professor and chair in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

In the January issue of Advanced Materials & Processes, the team including Northeastern doctoral student Paul Elliott, published a research paper, which illustrated the progress regarding the glue's development.

On new developments in the metallic glue’s composition:

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.

Hanchen Huange, Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University

On the metallic glue’s unique properties:

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.

Hanchen Huange, Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University

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.

Hanchen Huange, Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University

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