Researchers at Northwestern University have just introduced a new glue-like compound capable of bonding metals with weld-quality strength at room temperature. The substance, called MesoGlue was developed by Hanchen Huang, professor and chair of Northeastern’s department of mechanical and industrial engineering, and his Ph.D. graduate students Paul Elliot and Stephen Stagon.
The new adhesive is composed of tiny nanorods. Each nanorod has a metal core coated with one of two elements: indium or gallium. Each of the two surfaces to be joined is coated with one of the two kinds of nanorods, which stand upright like bristles on a brush or a piece of Velcro. “All the little bristles push past each other so the two brushes are basically stuck together,” said co-inventor Paul Elliot. “The bristles are spaced well enough so they can slide or be pressed in between each other.” When the indium and gallium coatings on the rods come into contact, they form a liquid. The metal cores inside the rods then react with that liquid, hardening into a single cohesive solid. The result is a bond that purportedly matches the strength of a traditional weld or solder.
MesoGlue joints aren’t damaged by heat and are highly resistant to air and moisture leaks. It requires minimal pressure and absolutely no heat to form a bond. As a result, the glue’s creators are primarily focused on introducing the compound to markets where the metallic adhesive can provide advantages no other bonding process can offer. The most promising application for MesoGlue is as a solder replacement for the room temperature welding of pipes, but the substance also shows potential as a means of attaching tiny components onto a circuit board without damaging nearby parts with soldering heat.
However, computer chips and piping aren’t the only fields MesoGlue’s creators hope to revolutionize. MesoGlue bonds are also thermally and electrically conductive. “As a heat conductor, it may replace the thermal grease currently being used, and as an electrical conductor, it may replace today’s solders,” said Huang. But one of the creator’s biggest goals is using the material to assemble the delicate, compact components of solar panel technology. As of right now, MesoGlue is only a lab experiment. However, a commercial version of the product is also being developed by a spin-off company of the same name. “We are working on turning this into a liquid form that will make the process just like a glue or epoxy that you would use at home,” Elliott tells us. If you want to learn more about the science behind MesoGlue, see the paper published in the journal Advanced Materials & Processes.
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