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Stuck on “Nanoglue”

Rensselaer researchers recently developed a new method to bond materials that don’t normally stick together. The super-sticky adhesive is based on self-assembling nanoscale chains and could impact everything from next-generation computer chip manufacturing to energy production.

The nanoglue is inexpensive to make and its molecular bonds strengthen when exposed to heat, allowing the adhesive to withstand extremely high temperatures, according to Ganapathiraman Ramanath, professor of materials science and engineering, who led the research.

Researchers have recently found nanolayers — molecular chains with a carbon backbone ending with appropriate elements such as silicon, oxygen, or sulfur — to be useful for creating adhesives, lubricants, and protective surface coatings.

The nanolayers, however, are extremely susceptible to heat and begin to degrade or detach from a surface when exposed to temperatures above 400 degrees Celsius, a limitation which has precluded widespread use.

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Ramanath’s team successfully sandwiched a nanolayer between a thin film of copper and silica, giving extra support to help strengthen the nanolayer’s bonds and boost its adhesive properties.

When exposed to heat, the middle layer of the “nanosandwich” did not break down or fall off — as it had nowhere to go. The nanolayer’s bonds grew stronger and more adhesive when exposed to temperatures above 400 degrees Celsius. Constrained between the copper and silica, the nanolayer’s molecules hooked onto an adjoining surface with unexpectedly strong chemical bonds.

Because of their small size, these enhanced nanolayers will likely be useful as adhesives in a wide assortment of micro- and nanoelectronic devices where thicker adhesive layers just won’t fit.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.