Evaluation of Environmental Tests for Tin Whisker Assessment
Osterman, Michael D
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Tin whiskers are electrically conductive crystalline structures of tin that over time may grow outward from tin-rich surfaces and present a reliability hazard to electronic systems. While the problem has been known for decades, no satisfactory explanation of whisker growth mechanisms exists, leaving the industry to create whisker-assessment tests based on empirical data gathered under various environmental storage conditions controlled for temperature, humidity and temperature cycling. The long-term predictability of these environmental storage tests has not been addressed and the accuracy of these tests in foreseeing whisker growth is unclear. In this thesis, different tin finishes are assessed for whisker growth in accordance with existing environmental test standards and compared to growth seen in ambient storage conditions. The results indicate that environmental tests may over-predict, under-predict, or show little distinguishable growth as compared to ambient-stored tin finishes. In conclusion, environmental tests are not a reliable method of assessing future whisker growth.