Significance of Nucleation Kinetics in Sn Whisker Formation
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Sn whiskers are believed to form in response to stress in layers used as protective coatings. However, what makes them form at specific sites on the surface is not known. We have used thermal expansion mismatch to induce stress and observe the resulting whisker formation. Cross-sectional measurements of the region around whiskers show that there are oblique grain boundaries under the whiskers that are not seen in the as-deposited columnar structure. The kinetics also suggest that the whiskering sites may be formed by a nucleation process. Based on these results, we propose a nucleation mechanism in which the boundaries of the surrounding grains migrate due to strain energy differences and create oblique boundaries at which whiskers can form. A simple model is developed to predict the stress-dependence of the nucleation rate.
KeywordsPb-free manufacturing tin whiskers thermal cycling
The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the NSF-DMR under contract DMR1206138 and useful contributions from Gordon Barr.
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