iNEMI Releases Creep Corrosion Risk Guidelines PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 08:01

HERNDON, VA -- iNEMI today published a position paper outlining limits of temperature, humidity and gaseous contamination in data centers and telecommunication rooms to avoid creep corrosion on printed circuit boards.

These recommendations were developed by the consortium's Creep Corrosion Project, which has been investigating factors that influence creep corrosion since 2009.

"Corrosion of electronics is a significant issue," said Bill Bader, CEO of iNEMI. "However, there is very little agreement on the test methods and conditions that should be used to simulate the environmental conditions and to predict potential failures. This project team has surveyed the electronics manufacturing industry to identify leading factors in creep corrosion and is working to understand the sensitivities of those factors. They have conducted, and are continuing to conduct, very valuable testing to help extend industry's understanding of the issues surrounding creep corrosion."

Creep corrosion is a process in which solid corrosion products (typically sulfide and chloride) migrate over a surface without the influence of an electric field. Creep corrosion is highly surface specific and a given corrosion product can only migrate on a specific type of surface. Commonly seen in polluted environments rich in sulfur, this kind of corrosion has predominantly been observed on PCBs with lead-free surface finishes such as ImAg and OSP. In these cases, the corrosion product (typically copper sulfide) creeps onto the solder mask surface and causes short circuits between adjacent pads and traces. Creep corrosion on printed circuit boards is promoted by the residue of certain types of fluxes, and is also affected by temperature and humidity in the environment.

iNEMI's position statement defines the temperature, humidity and copper and silver corrosion rate limits within which PCBs will perform reliably in the field with respect to creep corrosion.  Existing studies indicate that the most effective way to protect electronic hardware from creep corrosion is to ensure that environmental conditions are within the modified severity level G1 of ANSI/ISA-71.04-1985, Environmental Conditions for Process Measurement and Control Systems: Airborne Contaminants (ISA 1985):

  • A copper reactivity rate of less than 30nm/month.
  • A silver reactivity rate of less than 20nm/month.

The recommended ranges for temperature and humidity are based on whitepapers from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE):

  • Temperature within 18⁰to 27⁰C.
  • Relative humidity less than 60%.
  • Dew point within the range of 5.5⁰ to 15C.

"The penetration of electronics into emerging markets, coupled with shrinking interconnect packaging densities, poses increased risk for creep corrosion-based reliability failures," said Anil Kurella, senior failure analysis engineer with Intel Corporation and a member of the Creep Corrosion Project team.  "These guidelines, which define the environmental envelope for electronic hardware usage, will enable customers to proactively monitor their use conditions and help mitigate corrosion-related product marginality issues."

"Environmental corrosion of electronics is a complex area of research," continued Kurella. "iNEMI should be credited for bringing together scientists and engineers at various companies to focus on this issue, share their findings and identify the biggest technical gaps that need to be addressed. The exploration of modified MFG test methods plus the evaluation of key factors contributing to corrosion are some of the important findings of this work."

iNEMI members supporting this position statement are: Agilent Technologies, HP, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Cisco, IBM, Dell, Intel, DfR Solutions,Dow Chemical, IST-Integrated Service Technology Inc.

Phase 3 of iNEMI's Creep Corrosion Project is currently performing laboratory-based experiments to further investigate the sensitivities of the influencing factors, including surface finish, flux, solder mask geometry, solder paste coverage, reflow and wave soldering, and mixed flowing gas (MFG) test conditions (corrosive gas concentration, humidity, temperature). Download a copy of the iNEMI position statement.

For more information about the Creep Corrosion Project.

 

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