Indium Blog

Carbon Nanotubes in Electronics

  • Indium Corporation
  • Nanotechnology
  • Solder
  • Solderability
  • Soldering Materials
  • Thermal Interface Materials

  • I've been reading more and more articles about the use of new nanomaterials as a thermal interface material to replace either epoxy or standard soldering techniques.  As an engineer with a background in nanotechnology and, specifically, the use of carbon nanotubes and their properties and as fillers in other materials, I have some experience in what nanotubes are and how they are made into these interface type materials.

    The most important thing to remember when dealing with Nanotubes is that their strength DOES NOT lie in numbers.  Most strength and thermal conductivity properties that are off the chart are usually just of one, when you start dealing with bulk carbon nanotubes, property calculations get a little complicated.

    Imagine you have a bowl of pasta, and, in that bowl, you have a mixture of fettuccine, or thick and strong pasta,  and cappelini, or thin and stringy pasta.  Individually the fettucini is stronger than the cappelini, but when combined together on your plate you have a new material that has different properties altogether and has strength that is ultimately in the middle of the two pastas.  Now imagine each piece of pasta is less than 100 nanometers in diameter; separating out the nanotubes with the properties that you want can be difficult.  You'd have to get some really small tweezers and a good microscope. It would be just like you were 5 again except without the spaghetti sauce all over your shirt.

    So, now how do we get the properties that we want in these materials? There are, essentially, three things we can do:
    1. Separate out the nanotubes we want
    2. Combine the Nanotubes with another material to get a composite
    3. Use what we know about nanotubes to manipulate carbon to produce better material

    Which is the best, cheapest way to get a good thermal interface material?  I'll mull it over while I'm trying to get spaghetti sauce off of my shirt.