Joining soft polymers and metals is receiving increasing attention in both industry and academia to enable the manufacturing of innovative products. One motivation arises from the production of next-generation heat exchanges, the structure of which is primarily composed of polymers and metals. Waste heat coming from low temperature exhaust gas stream is significant in industries in the U.S. However, traditional heat exchangers that are available to recover heat in the presence of small temperature difference are large and costly, restricting the wide application of such heat exchangers. To address this challenge, a hybrid materials design is proposed to achieve a balance between thermal conductivity and mechanical strength. High quality requirement induced by the changing operating conditions necessitates a strong bonding between polymers and copper. In this research, the possibility of using ultrasonic welding, which is conventionally employed to join dissimilar or similar metal layers, is explored. Preliminary results from welding experiments and tensile shear tests reveal that two bonding modes exist in the welding of PET and copper. Furthermore, analysis of power signals collected during welding shows that one can potentially monitor and optimize welding processes using monitoring signals. It is concluded from this study that ultrasonic welding has excellent potential in joining soft polymers and metals. Future work is also discussed on the process improvement and mechanism investigation.

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