Electronics Technology


Chemists discover a way to solder semiconductors

18 March 2015 Electronics Technology

A technique has been developed by University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and Illinois Institute of Technology researchers to solder semiconductors, a breakthrough which may revolutionise printed electronics and possibly make 3D printing of semiconductor chips possible, amongst other exciting applications in the field of electronics.

From computer chips to solar cells, semiconductors conduct electricity and make it possible to generate and control electrical current. However, they cannot simply be joined together since they are very sensitive to impurities and structural defects.

“If you put two pieces of semiconductor next to each other, each joint will be unique, and in most cases, will block transport of charges,” explains research team leader and chemistry professor Dmitri Talapin. “You will not be able to make a reasonably good electronic circuit by simply taking different semiconductor pieces and pressing them against each other as you could do with metals.”

The compounds Talapin and company have developed change all that. Made of cadmium, lead and bismuth, they can be applied as a liquid or paste to join two pieces of a semiconductor by heating them to several hundred degrees Celsius, which is mild by industry standards. After application, they decompose to form a seamless joint.

“Our paste or our liquid converts cleanly into a material that will be compositionally matched to the bonded parts, and that required development of new chemistry,” Talapin says. “We had to design special molecules that fulfil this requirement so that they do not contaminate the material.” The team set a new record for electron mobility in solution-processed semiconductors, a measure for how quickly electrons move through the materials. The new record is almost 10 times faster than the old one.

Semiconductor soldering is unlikely to have a major impact on today’s mainstream process by which large silicon crystals are grown, then cut, carved and etched into the desired shapes. It could, however, lead to the development of less expensive, solution-processed semiconductors needed for entry into new markets. Among these markets are printable electronics, 3D printing, flat-panel display manufacturing, solar cells and thermoelectric heat-to electricity generators for the Internet of Things.





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