An Investigation into the Effect of a Post-electroplating Electrochemical Oxidation Treatment on Tin Whisker Formation
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Since the ‘cracked oxide theory’ was proposed by Tu in 1994,1 there has only been a limited number of studies that have sought to investigate the effect of the Sn oxide on whisker growth. The current study has used electrochemical oxidation to produce oxide films, which has enabled the effect of the surface oxide thickness on whisker growth to be established. The effect of oxide thickness on whisker growth has been investigated for tin electrodeposits on both Cu and brass substrates. The influence of applied oxidation potential on the thickness of the Sn oxide film has been investigated using x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) for potassium bicarbonate–carbonate and borate buffer electrolyte solutions. Whisker growth from electrochemically oxidised Sn-Cu deposits on Cu and Sn deposits on brass has been investigated and compared with samples left to develop a native air-formed oxide. XPS studies show that the thickness of the electrochemically formed Sn oxide film is dependent on the applied oxidation potential and the total charge passed. Subsequent whisker growth studies demonstrate that electrochemically oxidised Sn-Cu deposits on Cu and Sn deposits on brass are significantly less susceptible to whisker growth than those having a native oxide film. For Sn deposits on brass, the electrochemically formed Sn oxide greatly reduces Zn oxide formation at the surface of the tin deposit, which results in whisker mitigation. For Sn-Cu deposits on Cu, the reduction in whisker growth must simply derive from the increased thickness of the Sn oxide, i.e. the Sn oxide film has an important role in stemming the development of whiskers.
KeywordsTin electrochemical oxidation electrodeposition whisker growth zinc diffusion
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The authors would like to thank the UK EPSRC Innovative Electronics Manufacturing Research Centre for funding this research through the WHISKERMIT programme and also Loughborough University Materials Research School for provision of a student bursary for one of the authors (Dan Haspel).
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