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Emerging Applications for Liquid Metal

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  • Gallium
  • Indium
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  • Phil: When we think of metals that are liquid at ambient temperatures, we immediately think of mercury.

     

    Jim: Of course!

     

    Phil: But, unfortunately, mercury is on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) list. We’ve been so preoccupied in our industry with lead going away – mercury is also taking an exit – and there are a lot of applications. What are we using in place of mercury these days?

     

    Jim: Well, there is a whole suite of materials that are liquid metal at room temperature or below room temperature. I brought one of them to show you. These are primarily gallium alloys with indium, and depending on the melting point we also add some tin or zinc.

     

    Phil: And as you say: there’s a suite, there’s a range of these alloys with different solidus temperatures, I assume.

     

    Jim: Right, anywhere down to 7-8 degrees Celsius.

     

    Phil: So they really lend themselves to a variety of applications – in a wider spectrum than old mercury did.

     

    Jim: Correct, yeah.

     

    Phil: Very cool.

     

    Jim: One of the places you might have heard of liquid metal in electronics applications is a few years ago it was used as a thermal interface material for a very famous processor. That’s a pretty cool application for liquid metal, it’s very good for thermal interfacing.

     

    Phil: What are some of the other applications you’re seeing these liquid metals applied to?

     

    Jim: Well, right now, using it as a circuit material is huge because you can develop stretchable electronics which can be stretched 7 times their length, they can be twisted – and it very exciting, especially in the field of robotics. You think of robotics as being rigid, and all of a sudden now you can have something that is more life-like. …And something that you can actually wear. These liquid metal alloys are really exciting for new applications.

     

    Phil: Absolutely, yeah – and you’re the guy to come to?

     

    Jim: Yeah!

     

    Phil: As far as people bringing their challenges, their ideas, their imagination, you’re the one to interface with at Indium Corporation?

     

    Jim: Right, yeah – I want liquid alloys to be a tool in the engineer’s toolkit to solve problems. I would say: if anyone wants to contact me I can definitely round up a team and help them solve their application – whether it be liquid metals or low temperature alloys, they can always contact me at jhisert@indium.com. If they want to learn more they can visit our blog, the Indium Blog. (Which talks about gallium-indium and other alloys.) And www.indium.com has a lot of information on solders in general – be it low temperature or high temperature.

     

    Phil: Great. “Get your imagination in gear and give Jim a call.” Jim, thank you so much.

     

    Jim: Thank you Phil!

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