A new nanotube-based dry adhesive has been created to replace solder in circuit-board assembly. The adhesive, which has very high electrical and thermal conductivity, models its sticking power on the foot of the gecko lizard. It works without heat or solvents, permitting use in the vacuum environments used to make chips and in space.

"This will be useful to put electronic components together because the nanotubes have very high thermal conductivity," said professor Liming Dai at Ohio's University of Dayton.

Carbon nanotubes, which have very high electron mobility, enable the adhesive to be used to assemble chips on boards without the heat of soldering. The researchers are also experimenting with patterning the material onto chips themselves.

"We grow (the nanotubes) on silicon wafers, because we use silicon wafers for electronic applications. We can pattern at the microscopic level," said Dai. "If you use this kind of adhesive to put transistors together into circuits, the adhesive will remove the heat generated by the current."

The adhesive force measured by the researchers was similar to that of a gecko's foot - up to 100 Newtons per centimeter in the shear direction and 10 N/cm in the perpendicular direction.

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