Because conventional solder is made from lead, a toxic heavy metal, the new discovery could be a big boost for efforts to manage the growing problem of recycling and electronic waste disposal.
In the United States, lead was commonly used in gasoline and house paint. This heavy metal has been partially banned after a study showed it is a potent neurotoxin. I said partially because it is still used in conventional solder that is manufactured in the U.S.
The Yale researchers have come up with a tin-silver alloy that holds micro-particles of iron. Rather than applying heat from an external source, the compound is exposed to a magnetic field. That excites the iron particles, which in turn causes the solder to heat up and melt internally. The result is a highly localized melt that has little or no effect on the components around it.
In the energy efficient future, the magnets will have an important role. For example, at the Columbia University, scientists are creating computer chips that use nano-magnetic materials, which have the possibility to reduce up to 30% of the energy used by data centers.
For the moment, the new solder is still in development stages, but thanks to its energy-efficient magnetic field, it could replace a relatively energy-intensive step in the electronics manufacturing process.