Recent Observations on Tin Pest Formation in Solder Alloys


The most recent observations of the response of bulk samples of several lead-free solder alloys, exposed to temperatures below the allotropic transition for tin for extended periods, are reported. Tin pest has been observed in Sn-0.5Cu, Sn-3.5Ag, Sn-3.8Ag-0.7Cu, and Sn-3.0Ag-0.5Cu alloys at both −18°C and −40°C. The process is slow and inconsistent, usually requiring several years, but may eventually result in complete disintegration of the sample. No tin pest was detected in Sn-Zn-3Bi or in the traditional Sn-37Pb solder alloy after exposure for up to 4 and 10 years, respectively. It is suggested that nucleation is affected by local composition and that extremely small amounts of either intentional solute or impurity are influential. Growth of tin pest is accompanied by a large volume change, and it is likely that stress relaxation ahead of the expanding grey tin front is a controlling factor. A stronger matrix would be more resistant in this case, and at the temperatures of exposure Sn-37Pb is stronger than either Sn-3.5Ag or Sn-0.5Cu. The absence of tin pest, to date, on actual joints is attributed to their restricted free surface area and the greater strength associated with very small samples.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    W.J. Plumbridge, J. Mater. Sci. Mater. Electron, 18, 307 (2007)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    A. Bornemann (Symposium on Solder, ASTM STP 189, Philadelphia, 1956), p. 129

  3. 3.

    W.L. Williams (Symposium on Solder, ASTM STP 189, Philadelphia, 1956), p. 149

  4. 4.

    Y. Kariya, N. Williams, C.R. Gagg, W.J. Plumbridge, J. Mater., 53, 39 (2001)

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Y. Kariya, C.R. Gagg, W.J. Plumbridge, Solder. Surf. Mount Technol., 13, 39 (2001)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    L. Snugovsky, P. Sngovsky, D.D. Perovic, J.W. Rutter, Mater. Sci. Technol., 21, 61 (2005)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    G. Tammann, K.L. Dreyer, Z. Anorg. Chem., 199, 97 (1931)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    E. Cohen, A.K.W.A. van Lieshout, Proc. K. AKAD. Wet. Amsterdam, 39, 1174 (1936).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    G.V. Raynor, R.W. Smith, Proc. Roy. Soc., 244A, 101 (1958)

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    C.W. Mason, W.D. Forgeng, Met. Alloy, 6, 87 (1935)

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    R.R. Rogers, J.F. Fydell, J. Electrochem. Soc., 100, 383 (1953)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    A.A. Matvienko, A.A. Sidelnikov, J. Alloy Compd., 252, 172 (1997)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Y.J. Joo, T. Takemoto, Mater. Lett., 3678, 793 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    W.J. Plumbridge, C.R. Gagg, J. Mater. Sci. Mater. Electron., 10, 461 (1999)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    E.S. Hedges, J.Y. Higgs, Nature, 169, 621 (1952)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    E. Cohen, A.K.W.A. van Lieshout, Proc. K. AKAD. Wet. Amsterdam, 39, 596 (1936)

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    F. Vnuk, A. de Monte, R.W. Smith, J. Appl. Phys., 55, 4171 (1984)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    G. Khatibi, A. Betzwar-Kotas, V. Gröger, B. Weiss, Fatigue, Fract. Engng. Mater. Struct., 28, 723 (2005)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    B. Weiss and A. Hadrboletz, ‹Fatigue 2002’ Proc. 8th Int. Fatigue Conf. June 2002, Stockholm, ed. A. F. Blom (Warrington, UK: Emas Pub., 2002)

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to W.J. Plumbridge.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Plumbridge, W. Recent Observations on Tin Pest Formation in Solder Alloys. Journal of Elec Materi 37, 218–223 (2008).

Download citation


  • Tin pest
  • lead-free solder alloys
  • allotropic transition
  • solder joints
  • structural integrity in electronics