Moisture in Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors

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When both precious metal electrode and base metal electrode (BME) capacitors were subjected to autoclave (120 ºC/100 % RH) testing, it was found that the precious metal capacitors aged according to a well known aging mechanism (less than 3 % from their starting values), but the BME capacitors degraded to below the -30% criterion at 500 hours of exposure. The reasons for this new failure mechanism are complex, and there were two theories that were hypothesized. The first was that there could be oxidation or corrosion of the nickel plates. The other hypothesis was that the loss of capacitance was due to molecular changes in the barium titanate. This thesis presents the evaluation of these hypotheses and the physics of the degradation mechanism. It is concluded by proof by elimination that there are molecular changes in the barium titanate. Furthermore, the continuous reduction in capacitor size makes the newer base metal electrode capacitors more vulnerable to moisture degradation than the older generation precious metal capacitors. In addition, standard humidity life testing, such as JESD-22 THB and HAST, will likely not uncover this problem. Therefore, poor reliability due to degradation of base metal electrode multilayer ceramic capacitors may catch manufacturers and consumers by surprise.