01 September 2007

Metals go organic: Ormecon's solderable "Organic Metal" nanofilms

In everyday life, metals are quite recognizable: shiny, dense, moldable, malleable, good conductors of electricity and heat, and ...well, metallic. Ores for these materials are dug up from the ground, often in oxidized form, and processed into usable materials through smelting and other methods of refinement, some of which are quite energy-intensive. Everyone knows what metals are. (Except maybe astronomers, who stubbornly insist on calling everything but hydrogen and helium a "metal.")

Not so fast. Polyaniline, a polymer (that is, a substance composed of chainlike molecules based on carbon) with promising metal-like conductivity properties was first identified back in the 1930s and discussed with increasing interest as an actual "organic metal" as far back as 1995. This organic metal differs from the metals of everyday experience in significant ways. It can't be molded or hammered into shape. It isn't mined or refined. It can't be milled or polished. Instead it has been mostly used for coatings, for example as an anti-static or anti-corrosive film. Now Small Times reports, this venerable material is the basis of a useful new nanomaterial of significance for the manufacture of electronics:
Just 50 nanometres thick, [Ormecon's] Nanofinish consists of less than 10% silver and more than 90% Ormecon's proprietary organic nanometal... Nanofinish's performance and thermal aging resistance is said to be superior to any metal or OSP finish. The company says it is in use by renowned market players such as Flextronics. The new process consumes less than 10% of the energy compared to other metallic finishes, and promises to save more than 90% of (expensive and partially noble) raw materials, says Ormecon.

Ormecon states:
...Other metallic finishes which are outperformed by Ormecon’s new nanofinish, are electroless Nickel-Gold, immersion silver and immersion tin.

They also note:
It is insoluble and unmoldable, but we succeeded in making it dispersible - the only way of processing conductive polymers and Organic Metals. We manufacture this material in form of about 10 nanometre small primary particles. They agglomerate with very strong forces to powder particles, still hard to disperse. Therefore, we provide the Organic Metal as predispersions or ready-to-use dispersions, lacquers, paints and blends for various applications in printed circuit board manufacturing, corrosion protection, antistatic and conductive surface modification, organic and polymer light emitting diodes (OLEDs, PLEDs), "plastic electronics" and many other products. This is a new kind of nanotechnology.

(Furthermore, Ormecon has reported that polyaniline materials show promise for fabricating organic LEDs and other useful microscale devices. )

It's hard to imagine a technology as seemingly old-fashioned as soldering, but that is the foundation for the manufacture of all the electronic gizmos that we take for granted. Advances there advance everything.

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