Embedded electronics and optics in a metal matrix

Extreme environments such as fusion reactors require advanced designs to gain information about the process, and embedded optics and electronics can provide information in areas otherwise inaccessible.

Our aim

This project aims to develop processes enabling embedded optics and electronics in a metal matrix for sensing applications in harsh environments such as manufacturing processes and power generation. Improved information gathering from sensors near the point of interest will enable process optimization and integrating the sensors completely within the system will give the perfect conditions.

Our research

Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) produces dense metallic components by welding metal foils layer by layer using ultrasound and high pressure. The metal foils form a perfect metal-to-metal bond but at temperatures far below the melting temperature of the metal (<150°C). The low temperature enables electronics to be embedded in the metal matrix without damage while retaining most of the mechanical integrity of the metal component. Even printed electronics and polymer dielectrics can survive the process.

Future applications within industry 4.0 and the Internet Of Things will require embedded sensors, RF communication and supporting electronics. Furthermore, the process also enables the welding of dissimilar metals such as aluminium and copper.

Our outcomes

We have embedded printed electronic tracks and polymer electrical insulators and tested their performance after UAM processing. Furthermore, we have created via for 3D integration and embedded an SMT component in aluminium.

Project lead: Dr Daniel Engstrom

Embedded sensors provide enormous benefits to process optimization and process control. For harsh environments, the sensors must be embedded in a protective material such as aluminium that can be integrated easily with common components.

Dr Daniel Engstrom