Thursday, January 21, 2010

Radio Activated Solder Helps Chip Making

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they have found a way to make computer chips and other small electronics without having to heat the entire chip. Michael McHenry is professor of materials science and engineering, biomedical engineering and physics. While working with Intel, his team found a way to embed magnetic nanoparticles into a solder, which heat up when exposed to specific radio frequencies. Currently the chips must be heated in an oven to cause the solders to reflow. McHenry says that heat can damage the chips. The problem has become worse as more lead is removed for solders for environmental reasons, which increases the melting point of the solder. Mc Henry says there is the added benefit that less energy is used to create the radio waves than the heat. McHenry says, "By varying the concentration and composition of these magnetic particles we can control the time it takes to heat them, which ultimately helps improve the speed of processing them.”
McHenry says Intel will own some of the science but other aspects of the work will be open to other researchers. He says the process could have uses outside of chip making, "There are many possibilities for this process throughout a variety of industry sectors, including the semi-conductor sector, aerospace and data storage industry." So far the researchers have only worked on a small scale but McHenry says it can quickly be ramped up to a commercial scale.

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