Secret ingredient for silver conductors
Start-up Nano-Join develops custom-made silver sintered pastes to improve efficiency of lasers and high-performance electronics
Improving efficiency of lasers, high-performance electronics, and other (opto-)electronic systems often has to do without taking up additional space in a device. However, the higher the performance density, the more the systems are prone to overheating. This calls for efficient ventilation. The founders of the Adlershof-based Nano-Join GmbH have found a solution: custom-made silver sintered pastes.
Adrian Stelzer and Battist Rábay are Adlershof returnees. Both studied chemistry and completed their PhDs here twenty years ago. ‘Back then, there were more vacant lots than buildings,’ they reminisce. The two founders became friends at university, where they talked about their future, and both agreed that they would rather have their own company than work for somebody else.
They moved back to Adlershof in early 2019. The dream of having their own company became a reality among the modern and lively Science City that has developed on the once-vacant lots. Rábay and Stelzer are the CEOs of Nano-Join, a start-up they founded in 2015. ‘We develop novel silver sintered pastes. Thanks to a silver content of up to 95 percent, they are ten to 20 times stronger than previously available solder pastes in terms of thermal conductivity, electrical resistance, and sheer strength,’ says Stelzer.
By doing so, Nano-Join is putting out a product that is desperately sought after in many sectors. Producers of lasers and other photonic systems, high-performance electronics in electromobility and renewable energy, or mobile computers and other consumer electronics all have the same problem: on the one hand, they must implement higher performance in ever-smaller devices and, on the other hand, protect their products against overheating to safeguard a long life span and device security. Ventilation thus becomes a central challenge. The ultrathin connective surfaces between high-performance components can by no means be insulating.
The group of chemists from Technical University Berlin (TU) identified the increasing need for electrically conductive connections early on. For over decade now, they have been advancing the development of silver sintered pastes, including in collaborative projects with private companies. At the same time, they were looking for partners for a spin-off. Rábay was curious, brought Stelzer on board, and together they started the company. Initial funding was secured by an EXIST grant. To do their research, they moved into a lab container provided by the INKULAB programme of TU and WISTA Management GmbH (WISTA) with financial support of the Berlin economy by the IHK.
Meanwhile, the two founders have developed a particularly stable recipe containing silver salts, which ensure that the silver particles and the solvents of their sinter pastes do not unmix. This was one of the flaws when working with previous solder pastes. Rábay also lets us in on an additional success factor: ‘We put great importance on support services and contribute our knowledge to help our customers with troubleshooting in their projects.’ This helps the founders to learn what is important for the practical application of their product and to expand and optimise their product range.
They are currently building up Nano-Join at the Innovation and Start-up Centre (IGZ) on Rudower Chaussee. So far, the available lab space is large enough for their production needs. From their small office, they are in contact with customers from many European and Asian countries, including many notable manufacturers of high-performance electronics. This is one of many future markets that will help Nano-Join grow. ‘We are capable of scaling up our production according to the demand any time,’ says Stelzer. They are not currently looking for investors. ‘Starting out, we were very focused on finding investors,’ they say. Instead of investing a lot of effort in persuading potential sponsors, they opted for convincing customers of their products.
The strategy has worked, also thanks to the advice and support of a business angel. Both the old and new Adlershof-based entrepreneurs are convinced: ‘If the demand takes off soon, we can point to our customer base and our increase in orders. We are sure these are good arguments to reel in growth capital if we need it.’ Until then, they want Nano-Join GmbH to grow as organically as possible.
By Peter Trechow for Adlershof Journal