Historically speaking, there are just two ways to join metal pieces together: welding and soldering. Where welding always entails melting the base metals, soldering works by melting a filler metal that acts as the binding agent.
Beyond that, though, the processes share many significant characteristics, not the least of which are: reasonable efficacy, the application of heat, and the inclusion of some risk (of both damaging component parts and the final product's usefulness).
And, until recently, they were alike in representing the sole means of joining two or more metal parts together.
The brainchild of researchers at Boston's Northeastern University, this new way of affixing metal involves a conductive material that works at room temperature. And it is quite possibly a game-changer in the world of metal.
MesoGlue is composed of two different specially treated nanorods, both with metal cores. One has a gallium coating, the other an indium coating. When the indium and gallium touch each other, they form a liquid which the rods' metal core turns into a solid. The resulting "glue" is actually the nanorod coatings standing up like hairy Velcro bristles that interlock when pressed together.
Among this room-temperature metallic glue's most attractive properties:
While achieving the bond requires some force, it doesn't need either heat or any special equipment.
It won't burn your fingers to use it.
Once the MesoGlue is set, the metallic union is permanent (testing has revealed the joint to be about as strong as a traditional weld).
MesoGlue is thermally and electrically conductive.
Its use sidesteps soldering's risk of damage to delicate electronic components.
Because the binding is heat-free, its potential applications are broader than those of the solder and weld, including solar panel technology and processor thermal compounds.
Researchers are currently extending their interest in MesoGlue beyond laboratory applications, and work is afoot to develop a spinoff company that can deliver the product into a retail setting.