New materials to replace gold in electrical applications

­Researchers at the University of Connecticut, together with Engineers from the United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) have developed new classes of alloy materials that could reduce reliance on gold and other precious metals in electronic applications.

The research report, published in the October 12th issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, said the materials behave much like gold and other precious stones which are preferred for electronic applications due to their combination of excellent conductivity and resistance to oxidation and corrosion.

They were modeled and developed by Professors of Material Science and Engineering, Mark Aindow and S. Pamir Alpay, and Joseph Mantese, a Fellow of the UTRC, funded by a grant from the US Army Research Office.

The report said “with the price of gold currently hovering around $1,340 per ounce, manufacturers across the globe are scrambling for alternatives to the costly noble metals that are widely used in electronic applications, including gold, platinum, rhodium, palladium and silver.”

So far, the team has investigated nickel, copper and iron, which are inexpensive materials that may offer promise.

Based on their research, they have laid out the theory and demonstrated experimentally the methodology for improving the electrical contact resistance of these base metals.

Prof. Aindow was quoted as saying “we used a combination of theoretical analysis to select the appropriate constituents, and materials engineering at the atomic level to create designer materials.”

The researchers synthesized various alloys, using inexpensive base metals.

Higher conductivity native oxide scales can be achieved in these alloys through one of three processes: doping to enhance carrier concentration, inducing mixed oxidation states to give electron/polaron hopping, and/or phase separation for conducting pathways.

Their work has demonstrated an improvement in contact resistance of up to one-million-fold over that for pure base metals, so that base metal contacts can now be prepared with contact properties near those of pure gold.

By Samuel Dowuona

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.