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Suppression of Tin Whiskers in Lead-Free Solder

Improved electronics reliability by surpressing whiskers that can cause short circuits and arcing in electrical circuits

Savannah River National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Scientists at the Savannah River National Laboratory have identified a treatment method that slows or prevents the formation of whiskers in lead-free solder.  The current stage of research has shown initial time studies in comparison to a base-line that whisker formation is minimized or almost nonexistent (some hillocks are noted).

 

Description

Whiskers can cause short circuits and arcing in electrical circuits.  Tin whiskers caused the failure of the Galaxy IV satellite in 1998.  At frequencies above 6GHz or in fast digital circuits, the whiskers act like antennas by affecting circuit impedance and causing reflections.  They often cause failures in relays and have been found upon examination of failed relays in nuclear power facilities.  The problem was discovered by telephone companies in the late 1940s and was resolved by adding lead to the tin solder.  The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive in 2006 restricted the use of lead in various types of electrical equipment.  Pure tin solder has since been replaced with alloys but require acceptance testing standards and mitigation practices to help manufacturers reduce the risk.  Treatment methods at the Savannah River National Laboratory have shown promising results for pure tin solder and research is ongoing.

Applications and Industries
  • Applicable to all electronics for the following industries/applications:
  • Computers and Servers
  • Nuclear (relays)
  • Medical (pacemakers)
  • Transportation (Avionics, Satellite, Automotive)
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
SRNL-L5210-2011-00178DevelopmentAvailable - Available for collaboration or licensing07/14/201107/14/2011

Contact SRNL About This Technology

To: Dale Haas, Commercialization Manager<dale.haas@srnl.doe.gov>