There are two general ways to join metal components together — soldering and welding. Both require the application of heat, and both come with risks. You might damage delicate electrical components, start a fire, or just do a poor job that results in things breaking down the line. Researchers from Boston’s Northeastern University have devised an alternative called MesoGlue. It’s a conductive material that bonds two pieces of metal together, and it works at room temperature.
MesoGlue is composed of two different specially treated nanorods. Both nanorods have metallic cores, but one type has a coating of gallium and the other has indium. These mixtures are kept separate and one is applied to each surface. After being applied, the nanorods stand up like the bristles of a brush. Then you just press the two together. You have to apply some force to make sure the bonding process works, but a single person with no special equipment can do it.
The two sets of nanorods interlock, sort of like metallic velcro. The difference being that once MesoGlue is set, it won’t be coming apart again. When the indium and gallium coatings on the rods come into contact, they form a liquid film between the rods that fills in all the available space. This film reacts with the now-exposed metal core of the nanorods that causes it to solidify, binding the two objects with a solid metal junction. Again, this reaction doesn’t require the application of any external heat. Testing done by the Northeastern University team shows this bond to be about as strong as a traditional weld.
The solidified MesoGlue is thermally and electrically conductive, so it can take the place of both welds and soldering. It may make the greatest impact in the electronics industry, where delicate components can be damaged by soldering, and there’s always a drive to design more tightly packed circuit boards. Solar panel technology could also benefit from heat-free MesoGlue binding. The team also cites processor thermal compounds as a potential use for MesoGlue, which could provide superior heat dispersal. Of course, then your CPU will be forever bound to the heatsink.
In its current form, MesoGlue has to be applied in a lab setting, but the product is being developed into a spin-off company that intends to make a version that can be applied as a liquid at home. More like regular glue, except it’s crazy metallic glue that instantly welds things together. There will probably be some warning labels on the tube.
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