Tin Whiskers: The Next Y2K Problem

"Fortune has an article about how the recent environmental push to completely eliminate lead from electronic components and wiring may
eventually lead to the next Y2K problem of slowly-growing tin whiskers short-circuiting equipment."
*-----------------------* Posted at: www.GroupSrv.com *-----------------------*
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lily wrote:

Doubtful. Tin whiskers only grow from pure tin. If you were using pure tin, you would also be subject to tin pest, which would be at least as bad a problem in Japan, Korea, Europe, and the northern USA. Lead-free solders are unlikely to be pure tin, although they may be tin alloys (which are not subect to tin whiskers or tin pest).
Pure tin might be used as a plating on leads and circuit board lands, but these phenomena are well known in the electronics industry. Only idiots would get bitten by them, however that can't be entirely ruled out. The Illiac-IV supercomputer was plagued by unreliable connections caused by plating gold directly over copper without a barrier layer. That was also a well-known problem in the electronics industry, but somehow idiots were allowed to participate in the Illiac-IV hardware design.
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No. I've seen many failures in electronics caused by tin whiskers. All it takes is a little humidity and a voltage potential between two points and boy do the whiskers grow.
Al
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lily wrote:

The well-known whisker problem is more general than just tin. Zinc and silver coatings also can grow whiskers.
Zinc whiskers (from electroplating on steel floor tiles for raised floors) are a possible problem in data centers.
See the recent article at: http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/reference/tech_papers/2004-Brusse-Zn-whisker-IT-Pro.pdf
and of course also check the home page at: http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker /
Pittsburgh Pete
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