MICROSTRUCTURAL CHARACTERIZATION AND THERMAL CYCLING RELIABILITY OF SOLDERS UNDER ISOTHERMAL AGING AND ELECTRICAL CURRENT
Pecht, Michael G
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Solder joints on printed circuit boards provide electrical and mechanical connections between electronic devices and metallized patterns on boards. These solder joints are often the cause of failure in electronic packages. Solders age under storage and operational life conditions, which can include temperature, mechanical loads, and electrical current. Aging occurring at a constant temperature is called isothermal aging. Isothermal aging leads to coarsening of the bulk microstructure and increased interfacial intermetallic compounds at the solder-pad interface. The coarsening of the solder bulk degrades the creep properties of solders, whereas the voiding and brittleness of interfacial intermetallic compounds leads to mechanical weakness of the solder joint. Industry guidelines on solder interconnect reliability test methods recommend preconditioning the solder assemblies by isothermal aging before conducting reliability tests. The guidelines assume that isothermal aging simulates a "reasonable use period," but do not relate the isothermal aging levels with specific use conditions. Studies on the effect of isothermal aging on the thermal cycling reliability of tin-lead and tin-silver-copper solders are limited in scope, and results have been contradictory. The effect of electrical current on solder joints has been has mostly focused on current densities above 104A/cm2 with high ambient temperature (≥100oC), where electromigration, thermomigration, and Joule heating are the dominant failure mechanisms. The effect of current density below 104A/cm2 on temperature cycling fatigue of solders has not been established. This research provides the relation between isothermal aging and the thermal cycling reliability of select Sn-based solders. The Sn-based solders with 3%, 1%, and 0% silver content that have replaced tin-lead are studied and compared against tin-lead solder. The activation energy and growth exponents of the Arrhenius model for the intermetallic growth in the solders are provided. An aging metric to quantify the aging of solder joints, in terms of phase size in the solder bulk and interfacial intermetallic compound thickness at the solder-pad interface, is established. Based on the findings of thermal cycling tests on aged solder assemblies, recommendations are made for isothermal aging of solders before thermal cycling tests. Additionally, the effect of active electrical current at 103 A/cm2 on thermal cycling reliability is reported.