Newer innovations in electronics are shaping given its feasibility and usability in robust and extreme conditions. Every technology with versatile characterization is advancing to pave the path for these conditions.
A group of researchers is building electronics specifically circuits tailored for extreme conditions. The group of researchers led by Michigan State University’s Jason Nicholas is collaring towards these stronger circuits.
The MSU teams devices are said to benefit next-generation fuel cells, high-temperature semiconductors and solid oxide electrolysis cells — could have applications in the auto, energy and aerospace industries.
The team described the work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Program, on April 15 in the journal Scripta Materialia.
Nicholas and his team have developed more heat resilient silver circuitry with an assist from nickel.
Though Nicholas has mentioned that these devices are not ready for mass-market and are still under prototypes and labs for testing before it reaches the real world.
To bring this innovation in real use cases they’ll need to maintain their performance at high temperatures over long periods of time, noted Nicholas, an associate professor in the College of Engineering.
“Solid oxide fuel cells work with gases at high temperature. We’re able to electrochemically react those gases to get electricity out and that process is a lot more efficient than exploding fuel like an internal combustion engine does,” said Nicholas, who leads a lab in the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department.
But even without explosions, the fuel cell needs to withstand intense working conditions.
“These devices commonly operate around 700 to 800 degrees Celsius, and they have to do it for a long time — 40,000 hours over their lifetime,” Nicholas said. For comparison, that’s approximately 1,300 to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, or about double the temperature of a commercial pizza oven.
“And over that lifetime, you’re thermally cycling it,” Nicholas said. “You’re cooling it down and heating it back up. It’s a very extreme environment. You can have circuit leads pop off.”
The biggest tussle for this innovative technology is rudimentary: The conductive circuitry, often made from silver, needs to stick better to the underlying ceramic components. The secret to improving the adhesion, the researchers found, was to add an intermediate layer of porous nickel between the silver and the ceramic. By performing experiments and computer simulations of how the materials interact, the team optimized how it deposited the nickel on the ceramic. And to create the thin, porous nickel layers on the ceramic in a pattern or design of their choosing, the researchers turned to screen printing.
“It’s the same screen printing that’s used to make T-shirts,” Nicholas said. “We’re just screen-printing electronics instead of shirts. It’s a very manufacturing-friendly technique.”