PB-free electronics: from nanotechnology to combinatorial materials science

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Díaz-González, Alfredo J.
Embargoed Until
Quintero, Pedro O.
College of Engineering
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Degree Level
The elimination of lead (Pb) from the electronics industry due to a government directive caused problems on the manufacturing and use of electronic components. The current alloys used to attach components have a significant higher processing temperature (~30-40°C) that those containing Pb. The higher processing temperatures cause damage to the electronic components; printed circuit boards (PCB) and represents an increase in energetic costs for the manufacturer. Tin whiskers are out-of-plane structures that grow from tin (Sn) plated surfaces and cause short circuits and metal vapor arc. The electrical connection of components to the PCB relies on leads that are close to each other and are manufactured from tin-plated copper. Materials have shown a tendency to modify their bulk properties depending on powder particle size. Nanoparticle’s coalescence temperature tends to decrease as particle size decreases. Exploiting this behavior, a nanoparticle based solder paste has been developed for attaching electronic components at a lower processing temperature to avoid thermally induced damage and reduce energy consumption. Tin nanoparticles were successfully synthesized via a wet chemistry route using tin (II) chloride dihydrated (metal precursor), 1,10-Phenanthroline (surfactant), and sodium borohydride (reducing agent). A flux system was developed based on Ethylene Glycol. Results showed acceptable coalescence of the non-capped nanoparticles at temperatures as low as 200°C with a processing time of 20 minutes. Synthesized nanoparticles with capping agent required higher flux content thus resulting in a poor metallic load paste. A reduction in processing temperature of approximately 40°C have been found when comparing the developed solder paste with typical SAC lead-free solders (~240°C). The electrical behavior was found to be an order of magnitude below that of bulk tin. Compositional libraries have been developed in an attempt to screen, via a high throughput method, alloys that are prone to tin whiskers growth. These libraries are samples containing a range of sub-samples with varying compositions within it than can be processed simultaneously. Using sputtering, a physical vapor deposition technique, a gradient composed of Ag-Cu was deposited over a Sn-plated Cu substrate. After reflow, the growth mechanism of the whiskers was accelerated using the IEC60068-82-2 standard. SEM and EDS analysis was used to characterize the growth of the tin whiskers at different elemental compositions. The gradients found across the samples are in accordance with the theoretical geometrical spacing. Tin whiskers were found on control samples, whereas almost all elemental compositions showed mitigation or elimination of the whiskers. This combinatorial material science methodology proved to be an efficient and fast screening method for the plating materials selection process in Pb-free electronics.
Material sciences
Díaz-González, A. J. (2013). PB-free electronics: from nanotechnology to combinatorial materials science [Thesis]. Retrieved from