Will Metallic Glue Replace Solder?

A video recently surfaced touting a new method of joining materials together. It’s called MesoGlue, and apparently, it could replace soldering or even welding in certain cases.

First announced on this month’s Advanced Materials and Processes (caution, big file!) it seems… legit. The basic premise is it uses nanorods of material — kind of like velcro — that once you push together, intertwine with each other, and become solid. They’re surrounded with a shell that liquefies, which solidifies the bond. This makes it able to withstand high heat, once bonded.

This kind of technology could have an impact in the way we join solder circuits, pipes, bond IC’s to heat sinks, and attaching de-similar materials with different thermal expansion coefficients.

We’re no material scientist though, but since it did appear in ASM’s international publication of Advanced Materials and Processes — this could be the real deal.

What do you think? Conductive ink does work pretty well! Couple that with a good metallic glue and you could change PCBs dramatically.

[Thanks for the tip, Capa_D!]

71 thoughts on “Will Metallic Glue Replace Solder?

      1. Although, solder whiskers do seem like they could pierce a collection of semiconducting minerals to create something that would effectively act as a randomized circuit which could be used as the hidden layer of a reservoir computing system. Though it would continue changing over time instead of remaining fixed, which could make a considerable difference. I don’t know what it’d be particularly useful for, but it sounds like something that’s at least worth making an art project out of.

  1. I cannot believe I just got directed to vice news from hackaday. This article has no information whatsoever ‘with our magic patented glue (shows picture of elmers glue with sticker over the label) we can replace all existing glue! (examples of traditional bonding approaches) Coming soon!’

    No mention of how to make the ‘nano glue’, how to prepare the surfaces, the actual bond strength, corrosion issues with their claimed dissimilar metal bonding… Not to mention the lack of any estimate on how much the technology will cost…

    1. “permanent” was the one word in their videos that stuck in my head, so no way to rework faulty builds. A single faulty capacitor, and you need to replace the whole board. But maybe a mixed method where you only use “MesoGlue” on individual parts that make up at least 20% of the cost of the board, and solder all the cheaper parts.

      1. Or save the permanent ones for those normally not fixed like large chip with BGA where conventional RHoS compliant solder can fail easily.

        Just bring back old leaded solder, there were a lot less problem than lead-free crap.

        1. Shop near me still has lead solder. I might have to stock up, actually, the lead-free stuff is a pain. Far as I know, individuals are still allowed to use it, it’s just companies who have to comply with ROHS. I dunno how hard it is for other people to get hold of lead solder. Perhaps I’ll buy all his stock and punt it out over Ebay for a ridiculous profit.

          1. And aeroplanes and space craft do not allow ROHS either. The life expectancy of the hardware is too low. Basically anywhere that is safety critical ROHS is not allowed.

        2. Also, as an organic being, lead causes plenty of problems for us and our fellow pathetic flesh creatures. It gets into water tables and stuff. If the world would take care of it’s rubbish properly, instead of dumping it in poorer countries, this would be less of a problem. Can’t be that hard to reclaim solder, you can just melt it. But I imagine it’s more expensive than just taking the lead out of the stuff and carrying on dumping it.

          As it is, the world’s electronic manufacturers seem to have adapted well enough, everything’s as reliable (or unreliable) as it ever was. Since, for example, most phones don’t outlast their battery, reliability isn’t important any more, unfortunately. But you can still get lead solder for amateur use. I checked, Amazon and lots of other places still do it.

          1. Le Samourai–NASA gets a pass since a lot of their stuff is one-off and needs to survive rapid, extreme temperature changes and vibration, and the military gets a pass because it’s not producing and selling things for consumer use (usually).

          2. @Le Samourai the RHoS exemption for NASA and the military where most likely calculated on that compared to the consumer market circuits produced for NASA and the military aren’t going to release as much lead into the environment. Battlefield and space envirnments bring much harsher operating condition, that the average civilian environment and mission failure could have more expensive and dire results.

          3. The space and military waiver *is* for reliability. Most lead-free solders are less ductile, more brittle, and have unknown long-term aging and whisker characteristics. There are murderous on a high reliability circuit.

            Space and military require extreme reliability in harsh environments. Hence, we get to use the better product (e,g, 63/37 tin lead eutectic solder).

            Lead free solders also melt at a higher temperature. Higher temperature is equivalent to more stress, and directly translates to less lifetime.

            I happen to have my J-STD-001FS manual by my computer: per J-STD001FS clause 3.2 (the current space addendum to the soldering manual), the only allowable solders are Sn60Pb40, Sn62Pb36Ag2, Sn63Pb37, or SnAg3.7. Only one of those is lead free. Per the clause, this selection of solders is for service life, performance, and reliability. Furthermore, the lead-free SnAg3.7 is only to be used as an exception and used only where noted specifically in the drawings.

            As for RoHS, my problem with the directive is that they were treating the symptom and not solving the problem. The problem is that people are throwing electronics away, not that the electronics have lead in them. Lead bearing solder is perfectly fine, if disposed of/recycled properly.

          4. What you both describe sounds a lot like a discussion of reliability, with phrases like “needs to survive” and “mission failure.”

            I’d be curious to see what SpaceX and Blue Origin use for all their electronics.

        3. Yes lets bring back Lead solder!

          Because in reality Lead solder in electronics only accounted for about 0.5% of the lead usage in america before all this RoHS crap.

          Want to worry about LEAD just think about all the LEAD in car batteries. Sure they are making better versions of the battery but for the most part we all still use Lead-Acid batteries. They contain way more LEAD then solder in electronics.

          Anyways, i really hate lead free soldering! changing out my solder tip when i use one or the other is an inconvenience but having to crank up the heat to use solder free is a pain.

          So metal glue…sounds cool. Maybe it could be used in 3D printers?

          1. Yup. It’s economical to recycle car batteries, lead is a valuable metal. But scraping a couple of grams of an old TV, after breaking into the thing in the first place, is never going to be economically viable. For the money it’s easier to just remove the lead at source.

            It might not be a lot in relation to the world’s lead usage, but it’s still plenty of tons, and even a bit of lead can be dangerous to living things. While we live in a world where money is so important, that’s how things are gonna go.

      2. not necessarily if the bad capacitor is the electrolytic kind (tin can) if you are careful you may be able to pry the can off the board leaving the leads sticking out of the board ( happens often when one explodes) and solder to the leads.

        although the permanence may make it safer to manufacture and sell into terror nations because you dont have to worry about terrorists extracting the military grade parts from the boards and using them in icbms for example.

        remember in the 90’s when the power mac g4 came out it was considered a weapon because the graphics chips was the same used by the us military to run the missile tracking system and was afraid that the chips could be used by terrorists same went for the chip sets in the xbox 360.

        by gluing the chips to the boards then it should be safe to sell the devices in terror nations without fear of the chips falling into the wrong hands

    2. This technology is not new. Liquid soldering has been out for a while. Its great that they are showing it but nothing was said as to how it works, or showing it in use. Its basically a polymer glue much like super glue gel, with tiny particles of copper opr gold added to the mixture. The idea is by placing it between a component lead, and a circuit board trace that it like solder is conductive, but no heat is involved. This can then be used to put components onto plastic film pcbs thus cost effective, and no use of heat which damages most conventional components to some degree.
      JB Weld can be used to bond CPU to heat sinks and is used I suspect if you could get your hands on the copper or gold particles you could make that work, if you could get it mixed in fast enough before the glue sets up.

          1. Yes if the CPU is glued to the heat sink it will be impossible to remove the CPU from the motherboard if you want to upgrade later or the CPU dies.

            The fix would be to build a better socket so the CPU could be removed with a heat sink glued to it.

            could be useful to glue small heat sinks to memory?

    3. Jeebus, vice.com? Even if that’s where you get the story from, at least try find a better, more reputable and capable source to link to. Re-wording a Vice article is really not the sort of standard we expect round here. Real 0/10. Particularly if it’s just a glorified press release. So many “tech” writers these days know very little of what they’re talking about, just parrotting each other. So much of “journalism” is just “slightly rewording press releases”.

      It’s a heap of shit and I know better than to pay any attention. But HAD I pretty much trust to know what they’re talking about, more than I know about a subject myself, a lot of the time, cos the writers know their subject properly. The opposite is the case for most other journalism, particularly online.

      So… yeah… get your shit together, James!

      On the issue, it’ll be nice if it’s easier than soldering. Which can be a pain in the arse, although you get a lot better with a bit of practice. Depends on how the glue works, how you have to use it. It’ll come with it’s own drawbacks like anything, and not being able to re-work it sounds like a big pain, meaning you’ll have to throw boards and components away if you hyper-glue something wrong. This doesn’t sound like a normal type of glue, where they can mess with the formula to give different desired results, if it’s a permanent molecular-scale bond.

      1. Vice is a weird site. You can scroll through a list of articles and find no shit Big Deal articles on the Syrian civil war complete with on-site correspondents, sandwiched between two articles on Big Butted Brazilian Bimbos.

      1. Motherboard famously killed their comment section because it was filled up with trolls.

        Or they’re a sensationalist rag whose reporting often has no bearing on reality, made their name through ethically questionable ‘documentaries’, serve up an incredible amount of bullshit advertising and metrics along with every page, and are now an arm of the Rupert Murdoch right-wing propaganda machine.

        But mostly the comments.

    1. Good luck getting the aerospace industry to willingly put gallium all over their products. It’s probably safe enough ™ but all you need is one batch that slips by QA/QC, or a sloppy field repair to ruin your brand name.

    2. There’s videos on the web where someone scratches an aluminium can, puts a bit of Gallium into the scratch, and after a while the guy can tear the can up like paper. Gallium is like some sort of cancer for some metals, it’s not allowed anywhere near things that are safety critical.

      Then again, that’s the pure stuff, maybe there’s some clever bonding thing where it stays were it is and actually makes things stronger.

      1. A lot of metals are some sort of cancer to other metals. It plagues everything from fasteners to metal joins. Some will start current flowing, will rapidly oxidise and corrode the joint, some just like to chew each other out (try stainless steel against aluminium without any grease, you’ll only use that screw once, after that you can re-tap the aluminium. We can simply add this to a long existing list.

        Also there are many industrial process which involve destroying part of a material for some useful purpose. e.g. Gluing of rubber components for one, the process of gluing actually dissolves the surfaces of the rubber and melts them together.

  2. “Metallic glue” (solder paste) has already replaced solder – ask me about reflowing my HP2015 printer’s imaging board about once a year because it’s such a bad job. I’m assuming the article’s material gets done on a perfectly clean bonding surface in perfectly clean air because, you know, molecules and stuff.

    It could work, but it could also highlight that HAD needs to get past the “New Development Means That Someday (real) Soon Magic Stuff Will Happen” puffery put out by researchers and focus on the really cool science that happens.

    Will this “replace solder”, particularly in the grubby production mills of Shenzhen? Not likely, particularly since the researchers seem to be more interested in a better way of connecting CPUs with heatsinks (a plausible application) rather than connecting electrical circuits.

    Will something unexpected and cool grow out of it, particularly the metallurgy that happens at the joint? Much more likely.

  3. With Indium selling for ~$800/kg, gallium for ~$600/kg, not to mention all the start-up and manufacturing costs to get to market, you ain’t going to be buying this from adafruit.com for the same price as solder any time soon.

    1. There already is much better TIM available than what intel uses, but it would drive up the coast since the better stuff is pretty pricey.
      As for using this stuff, that would seemingly glue the shell so tight that you can’t ever remove the shell and put a cooler on the bare silicon like enthusiasts like to do, and that would mean you’d still be forced to have the casing sit between the die and your cooler. Which is not perfect regardless of the quality of the TIM.

      1. There is such a thing as a press-fit connection. It requires a specific hole size, geometry, and mettalurgy to work, and will cold-weld to the barrels of the PTH holes when it is pressed in place, similar to a wirewrap connection. It is gastight, and typically used in high reliability applications.

  4. It’s cute to make an animation, but how the hell would a liquid from a dispenser make nanorods all line up perpendicular (or even at a specific angle like the animation)?
    Plus as people in other comments point out, what would prevent the rods from crushing each other or even obstructing each other? and how would they be spaced just right?
    Combined with the famous BS advertisement white lab coat, and the SD resolution video, it all doesn’t inspire confidence.
    And the video basically paints some rosy theoretical picture then the larger part is about how wonderful it would be, but no explanations or serious addressing of the predictable doubt and questions people will have. So that’s not helping.
    Furthermore the PDF has an image Fig 4 which shows by the gaps when not using heat that the animation of perfect aligned rods is not a real representation.
    So it all makes it appear that they just made a working glue by chance and don’t really know what they are doing.

    But hey, I hear it’s the same with many scientific compounds, half the popular medication for instance, nobody knows exactly how it works, but as long as it does.. it’s better than nothing.

    1. Actually so much medication, particularly for vague, psychological stuff like depression, is only something like 10% better than placebo. Where, say, placebo produced improvements in 40% of cases and the SSRI did in 50%.

      That, and, as has been controversial over the last few years, there’s nothing to stop drug companies doing trial after trial, until they get a statistically valid one just by fluke. It’ll happen if you try often enough, and if the result you’re after doesn’t have to be very impressive. There’s pressure for laws to make drug companies record their unsuccessful trials, rather than just the one time it does work.

      But even putting that aside, you’re still right, drugs just have to treat some problem. We don’t need to know how, just that they’re effective in tests, and aren’t harmful otherwise. Of course they research into how it works later on, but it’s not necessary to get a drug out into the market.

        1. Read ’em in a magazine, I think New Scientist, a long time ago. I rarely remember where I heard things, if I had to keep a library of citations in my head I’d only be able to know half as much. And I’m better with understanding things, processes and rules, than I am at remembering meaningless data.

          Have a look yourself, I don’t think it’s a secret or particularly rare knowledge.

          Googling “effectiveness of SSRIs vs placebo” got a good few results, including one from Sci Am, and plenty of other reputable-looking sites.

  5. So the glue has nano rods. That makes the glue to stick to itself, but what about the two surfaces you are trying to glue together? They don’t have nano rods. So how does the glue, with nano rods, stick to surfaces without nano rods?

  6. De-similar? Wouldn’t that be a verb? Dissimilar I believe is what you are going for – and adjective describing a metal in this case? I could be wrong. That would make twice this year already.

  7. Evidently those posting a bitch about Hackaday covering this have already read about the tproduct. Idout I’m not the only Hackaday reader who had seen anything about this before James included it today. Although I wont be planning for using it in a project just yet.

  8. I may have missed it, but I didn’t see anyone mention that this is already available according to their website.

    “We currently offer coating of two joining surfaces at our state of the art processing facility. Items of up to approximately 1 cubic foot can be accommodated.

    Licensing of our patented processes is also available to help you meet your specific needs.

    For the moment, surfaces to be glued have to be first prepared here in our lab.
    Our retail products that allow the user to do all the gluing themselves, similar to liquid glue or epoxy, are not quite ready for release.”

  9. This technology is based on an eutectic interaction between Ga and In. The melting points of Ga and In are 30°C and 156°C resp.. If these two metals contact each other, they build an eutectic liquid with melting point about 15°C. It means that at room temperature it will be formed a liquid phase which couples booth parts together. With the time Ga diffuses in In and the liquid phase disappears. It leads to solidification. Such a diffusion process can be done completely only at elevated temperatures. To rework this connection it is enough to heat the soldered parts to 160-200°C. Generally this “glue” after solidification at room temperature is unstable and can not be seen as alternative for traditional soldering. Therefore this technology based on Ga-In system is not a case for NASA and can be used with a strong limitation.

  10. Missed this article back in January, but read a good article about the garbage media hype on an EDN blog. I honestly can’t see why anyone with a little bit of technical knowledge could believe that this is as exciting as some media channels make it seem. Besides, most of what comes from a University lab is only useful in a University lab…….

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