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Nanoglue to enable next-gen computer chips

18 Dec 2012

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A research team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has revealed that the extraordinarily thin "nanoglue," which gains strength as temperatures rise, could be a breakthrough for next-generation computer chips. Also, it could also be useful in such applications as high-temperature coatings.

Materials that don't normally stick together can be bonded by using a one-nanometre-high layer of self-assembling polymer chains, the research team discovered. The nanoglue consists of chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms customised with appropriate molecules at the ends, according to Ganapathiraman Ramanath, professor of materials science and engineering, who leads the research team.

The polymer used in the nanoglue is inexpensive and commercially available, but Ramanath's method of treating it is new.

His first nanoglue, consisting of chains with sulphur at one end, is designed to join copper components with other materials on computer chips, but he believes customising the chains with different materials at the ends would make it possible to bond other materials.

 Rensselaer nanoglue

The new method allows a self-assembled molecular nanolayer to become a powerful nanoglue by �hooking� together any two surfaces that normally don't stick well.

The 1nm-long polymer chains self-assemble into a small forest standing on a copper surface, and the sulphur ends bond with the copper. Ordinarily, the copper-sulphur bonds break and the polymer falls off at about 400°C. Ramanath's team added a silica layer to form a copper-polymer-silica sandwich. When the temperature rises, the polymer has no place to go, and its molecules begin forming very strong bonds with the adjoining materials. This glue layer is at least 10 times thinner than the best materials now used on chips, noted the research team.

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