A Metallic Glue for Faster, Longer Lasting Computers, and a Room Temperature Solder Replacement.

Research Category: Engineering and Technology
Presenter: Paul Elliott
PI: Paul Elliott

Removing heat from computer chips is vital to their continued operation. As chips get smaller and more powerful, this becomes an ever more challenging task. A current bottleneck in heat transfer out of components is the material used to connect the chip to a heat sink. These thermal interface materials are usually made of a thermal grease or of a metal solder. Thermal greases suffer from a number of problems. The most significant is low thermal conductivity. Metal solder offers the advantage of improved heat transfer over grease, but compared to certain pure metals, such as copper or silver, the thermal conductivity is still much lower. These pure metals, however, have high melting temperatures that would damage the chip.

We have developed a way to weld or solder things together without using heat to essentially create a metallic glue. By utilizing nanotechnology and our understanding and control of creating certain nanostructures, we can make an all metal connection that sets using only low pressure. This can be used in computers to attach CPUs to heat sinks, which will transfer heat out of the device faster. Our process stands apart from the currently used methods in computer cooling by providing a material that conducts heat 10-20x better. This makes it possible to run current computer chips faster, and to build faster chips as the inability to get sufficient heat out is a challenge to further miniaturization and speed increases.