Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

An alchemist’s dream: Lead-free electronics

Date:
July 26, 2010
Source:
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Summary:
It’s been said that the typical mobile phone contains roughly half of all elements found on the Periodic Table. One of the most problematic substances used in phones and other electronics is lead. But making lead-free electronics has proved problematic – until now. Researchers have now developed a method that enables the industrial production of a substance that can be used to replace lead in many electronic applications.

Mobile phones contain a number of different metals and substances, but one substance that regulators would like to see removed is lead. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have developed an industrial-scale production process for a substance that can replace lead in phones and other electronics.
Credit: Image courtesy of The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

It's been said that the typical mobile phone contains roughly half of all elements found on the Periodic Table. One of the most problematic substances used in phones and other electronics is lead. But making lead-free electronics has proved problematic -- until now. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have developed a method that enables the industrial production of a substance that can be used to replace lead in many electronic applications.

Lead to be phased out

Lead, or more precisely lead oxide, can cause both acute and chronic health and environmental problems. European regulators have decided that the use of lead in electronics must be phased out. But finding a replacement for a lead-containing material called PZT, which is found in almost all electronics, has been an alchemist's dream. Researchers have mostly failed to find a good enough alternative that provides the same functionality. As a result, the electronics industry has been exempt from the ban.

A material called KNN has long been considered a possible alternative, but finding a manufacturing method that provides both the right material properties and is industrially feasible has proved problematic. A group of researchers led by Tor Grande at NTNU's Department of Materials Science have solved both problems.

Lead everywhere

The most common leaded material in today's electronics (PZT) generates an electrical voltage when exposed to pressure. It is used in "gadgets" where mechanical movement has to be transformed into an electrical signal, or vice versa. You'll find PZT in your mobile phone, your car, your computer -- in short, everywhere where there are sensors and displays. Ultrasound images would not be possible without these kinds of materials.

Over the past ten years, there has been tremendous growth in research on lead-free alternatives. A type of material called alkali niobate, also known as KNN, is considered a likely successor. However, KNN poses two main problems that have been difficult to resolve: one is finding a KNN variant that has the exact properties needed for electronics. The second is to develop a method for industrial production of the material. NTNU researchers have developed an approach that is ready for patenting. "I had a theory and some ideas, and I knew that there would be something exciting out of this, I just did not know exactly what," says Grande, who is the research project manager. Grande thinks it is very satisfying to create an environmentally friendly alternative to PZT.

Grande uses a kitchen analogy when he explains the trick behind the new method. Microscopic ingredients are baked, rolled out and cooked in thin ceramic sheets. But the secret is the highly precise structure of the ceramic sheet, which has a texture that helps transform mechanical pressure into electrical signals, and vice versa. This gives the sheet the exact same properties as PZT.

"The method we have developed kills two birds with one stone," says Grande. "Not only can we adjust the process to create properties in the ceramic sheet that are precisely suited to different electronics -- we can also scale up the process so that we can produce almost unlimited amounts of it."

Green electronic products?

The team has submitted a patent application and is now working on verification and further development. "If we succeed, it will be of great commercial interest," Grande says. "I will be surprised if this product doesn't take over a significant part of the market in ten years. Maybe this will help in the creation of green electronic products?"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "An alchemist’s dream: Lead-free electronics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610095047.htm>.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). (2010, July 26). An alchemist’s dream: Lead-free electronics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610095047.htm
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "An alchemist’s dream: Lead-free electronics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610095047.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
7 Ways to Use Toothpaste: Howdini Hacks

7 Ways to Use Toothpaste: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 30, 2014) Fresh breath and clean teeth are great, but have you ever thought, "my toothpaste could be doing more". Well, it can! Lots of things! Howdini has 7 new uses for this household staple. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

AP (July 30, 2014) Smartphone powered paper airplane that was popular on crowdfunding website KickStarter makes its debut at Wisconsin airshow (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins