Oregon State University (OSU) engineers have come up with a new approach to photonic sintering that could enable the creation of high quality products at much lower temperatures.
Furthermore, these products can be created twice as fast and with 10 times more energy efficiency as compared to other technologies for nanoparticle sintering.
OSU experts discovered that previous approaches to understand and control photonic sintering had been based on a flawed view of the basic physics involved, which had led to a gross overestimation of product quality and process efficiency.
In their new approach, OSU engineers have shown that removing constraints on production temperatures, speed and cost allows the creation of many new high-tech products printed onto substrates as cheap as paper or plastic wrap.
Some of the products that could evolve from the research include solar cells, gas sensors, radiofrequency identification tags, and a wide range of flexible electronics. Wearable biomedical sensors and new sensing devices for environmental applications are another possibility.
Rajiv Malhotra, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, explained that photonic sintering is one way to deposit nanoparticles in a controlled way and then join them together. Until now, however, researchers didn’t really understand the underlying physics of what was going on. It was thought, for instance, that temperature change and the degree of fusion weren’t related.
The new study outlines concepts that will help in precisely controlling the temperature with smaller nanoparticle sizes. This in turn allows increased speed of the process and high quality production at temperatures lower than before.
In this technology, light from a xenon lamp can be broadcast over comparatively large areas to fuse nanoparticles into functional thin films, much faster than with conventional thermal methods. It should be possible to scale up the process to large manufacturing levels for industrial use.
To take the technology a step closer to commercial production, OSU researchers will work with two manufacturers in private industry to create a proof-of-concept facility in the laboratory.
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