Due to its technical contact properties, silver is irreplaceable as a material base in switchgear assemblies. In Germany alone, 400 tons of this precious metal are used annually for switchgear in industrial low-voltage electronics - and demand is expected to increase.
In the preliminary project "WING" (MatRessource), SAXONIA Technical Materials GmbH successfully developed a pilot plant for the sample production of stable multi-layer composite materials. Durability tests at the cooperation partner Siemens demonstrated the potential of the new technology: The manufactured contacts contain less silver and are characterized by high bond strength and thus high combustion resistance.
The aim of the two-year research project "IVAN" is to bring this technology up to industrial scale. At the SAXONIA site in Hanau, process modules are designed, assembled and integrated into production to mass-produce contact materials with reduced silver content. By introducing innovative process steps, researchers simultaneously increase the precious metal efficiency of the contactor contacts and their lifespan. Cutting the relay contacts is also made more efficient and generates fewer losses. This means the material dimensions can be scaled flexibly and with little waste right down to micro-profiles.
The pilot plant can produce contacts containing silver more efficiently. In addition, the significant increase in adhesive strength increases the lifespan of silver-based contacts in switchgear assemblies - thus reducing the demand for the precious metal by up to 40 percent.
© Fraunhofer ISI 2020