Nano liquid metal for the preparation of a thermally conductive and electrically insulating material with high stability†
Dielectric materials typically demonstrate poor thermal conductivity, which limits their application in emerging technologies in integrated circuits, computer chips, light-emitting diode lamps, and other electronic packaging areas. Using liquid metal microdroplets as inclusions to develop thermal interface materials has been shown to effectively improve thermal pathways, but this type of material may become electroconductive with the application of a concentrated compressive stress. In this study, an isotropic nano-liquid metal thermally-conductive and electrically-insulating material (nLM-THEM) is developed by combining a modified polymer and well-dispersed nanoparticles, achieving an ∼50× increase in thermal conductivity over the base polymer. In addition, the thermal conductivity of nLM-THEMs exhibits no significant change with varying humidity and a stable anti-corrosion effect even in direct contact with aluminum. More importantly, nLM-THEMs demonstrate a stable electrical insulating property upon compressive stress, while conventional micro-LM-THEMs exude liquid metal. This exceptional combination of thermal and electrical insulation properties is enabled by the interconnection of uniform and spherical liquid metal nanoparticles to create more thermally-conductive pathways, and surfactant modified nanoparticles ensure excellent electric insulation. Moreover, this material can achieve passive heat exchange through rapid heat dissipation, which demonstrates its great application potential in the electronic packaging area.