Researchers Optimize Laser Sintering For Printed Electronics

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Research at the Soonchunhyang University provides insights into the processing of copper nanoparticle ink with green laser light

Standard printing techniques develop printed electronics on different substrates such as glass, plastic films, and paper. These techniques have potential to create cheaper circuits more efficiently than conventional methods. Now, a research at Soonchunhyang University in South Korea published in AIP Advances on September 13, 2018, provides insights into the processing of copper nanoparticle ink with green laser light.

Although the researchers have previously experimented with silver nanoparticle ink, they choose copper for the current research as it is a low-cost alternative. Moreover, metallic inks made of nanoparticles are more efficient than bulk metals owing to their lower melting points. Such low melting point is achieved through a process called sintering. The particles can then be merged and bound together. The researchers focused on photonic approaches for heating nanoparticles by the absorption of light. A laser beam can be focused on an area as small as few micrometers. Heat from the laser can be used to convert copper oxide into copper and to promote the conjoining of copper particles through melting. The researchers selected a green laser for these tasks as its light in the 500- to 800-nanometer wavelength absorption rate range is best suited for the application.

Commercially available copper oxide nanoparticle ink was used for the experiment. The particles were spin-coated onto glass at two speeds to obtain two thicknesses. The material was prebaked to dry out most of the solvent prior to sintering in order to reduce the copper oxide film thickness. Moreover, prebaking also prevented air bubble explosions, which occur from the sudden boiling of solvent during irradiation. A series of tests revealed that the prebaking temperature should be slightly lower than 200 degrees Celsius. The optimal settings of laser power and scanning speed during sintering was also investigated to enhance the conductivity of the copper circuits. The researchers found that the best sintered results were produced when the laser power ranged from 0.3 to 0.5 watts and the laser scanning speed should not be faster than 100 millimeters per second in order to reach the desired conductivity.

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