Room-Temperature Curing and Grain Growth at High Humidity in Conductive Adhesives with Ultra-Low Silver Content
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Electronic Materials. 2017, 46 (7), 4256-4266. 10.1007/s11664-017-5376-1
Isotropic conductive adhesives (ICAs) are alternatives to metallic solders as interconnects in solar modules and electronic devices, but normally require silver contents >25 vol.% and elevated curing temperatures to achieve reasonable conductivity. In this work, ICAs are prepared with a silver content of 1.0 vol.% by using polymer spheres coated with nanograined silver thin films as filler particles. In contrast to conventional ICAs, there are no organic lubricants on the silver surfaces to obstruct the formation of metallic contacts, and conductivity is achieved even when the adhesive is cured at room temperature. When exposed to long-term storage at 85°C and 85% relative humidity, the silver films undergo significant grain growth, evidenced by field-emission scanning electron microscopy observation of ion-milled cross-sections and x-ray diffraction. This has a positive effect on the electrical conductivity of the ICA through the widening of metallic contacts and decreased scattering of electrons at grain boundaries, and is explained by an electrochemical Ostwald ripening process. The effects of decoupling heat and humidity is investigated by storage at either 85°C or immersion in water. It is shown that the level of grain growth during the various post-curing treatments is dependent on the initial curing temperature.