Graphene’s thermal properties open door to electronics applications

Cheaper, more reliable electronics devices could be developed using graphene components, thanks to a new research partnership.

Alpha, a US-based company that manufacturers soldering and bonding materials for the electronics industry, has announced a partnership with the National Graphene Institute at Manchester University.

Graphene, a one-atom thick form of graphite, is the world’s thinnest and most conductive material, and is expected to revolutionise industries such as the energy sector.

The partnership will investigate new applications for graphene within electronics, where the so-called wonder material’s ability to manage heat and to act as a barrier to liquid could be particularly beneficial, according to James Baker, graphene business director at Manchester University.

“Electronic devices produce heat, and that heat can make them less efficient or cause packaging or reliability issues,” he said. “So any component, whether that is a plastic component or a paste or ink, which can provide better thermal management, could potentially reduce the cost or energy consumption of the component, and improve its reliability.”

Graphene can also act as either a barrier to water or as a perfect membrane, and the researchers will investigate applications for this property within electronics.

The partnership will fund a core team of academics, while Alpha will also bring in its own applications engineers to work alongside them, Baker said. This should help to accelerate the development of some of the applications of graphene, he said.

“Alpha brings the market, production, and volume application knowledge, while the university brings the fundamental science and graphene know-how,” he said. “By bringing that together under the NGI it will act like an accelerator, to develop these applications in a much more aggressive timescale than you would do traditionally.”