Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 179–182 | Cite as

Tin Whiskers Formation on an Electronic Product: A Case Study

  • Nausha Asrar
  • Oliver Vancauwenberghe
  • Sebastien Prangere
Case History


During qualification testing, a printed circuit board (PCB) of an electronic device for a drilling tool failed. The circuit board was exposed to a 120 h aging cycle at 180°C followed by 10 thermal cycles between −40 and 180°C before a failure was noticed. During inspection numerous white whiskers were observed over a lead-free solder surface. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) were used for microscopic examination and material characterization of the whiskers, end-cap metallization, and the solder materials. The tin whisker formation was attributed to the compressive stress in the tin solder material, which was caused by diffusion of the end cap metallization, formation of intermetallics, and thermal cycling of the soldered components. Recommendations are given to mitigate/control whisker formation on the lead-free solder materials.


Tin whiskers Thermal cycling Intermetallics Lead-free solder 


  1. 1.
    Ganesan, S., Pacht, M.: Lead Free Electronics. Wiley-Interscience, N.Y. (2006)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    European Union, “Directive 2002/96/EC of European Parliament and the Council of 27 January 2003 on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE),” Official Journal of the European Union, p. L37/24–38Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Levine, B.: “Will Tin Whiskers Grow When You Get The Lead Out?,” Electronic News, March 25, 2002Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Brusse, J.: “Tin Whisker Observations on Pure Tin-Plated Ceramic Chip Capacitors,” AESFSUR/FIN Proceedings, June 24–27, 2002, pp 45–61Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Basic Info/FAQ, Scholar
  6. 6.
    Zhang, Y., Xu, C., Abys, J., Vysotskaya, A.: “Understanding Whisker Phenomenon, Whisker Index and Tin/Copper, Tin/Nickel Interface,” IPC, SMEMA Council APEX 2002Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kadeshch, J., Brusse, J.: “The Continuing Dangers of Tin Whiskers and Attempt to Control Them with Conformal Coating,” EEE Links, vol. 1, No. 2, July 2001Google Scholar

Copyright information

© ASM International 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nausha Asrar
    • 1
  • Oliver Vancauwenberghe
    • 2
  • Sebastien Prangere
    • 2
  1. 1.Sugar Land Technology Center – SchlumbergerSugar LandUSA
  2. 2.Schlumberger MEMS-TCElancourtFrance

Personalised recommendations