Damage Produced in Solder Alloys during Thermal Cycling

Liu, X. W. and Plumbridge, W. J. (2007). Damage Produced in Solder Alloys during Thermal Cycling. Journal of Electronic Materials, 36(9) pp. 1111–1120.

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11664-007-0122-8


The anisotropy of tin is associated with significant variations in its coefficient of thermal expansion and elastic modulus, with crystallographic direction. Under pure thermal cycling (with no externally applied stress or strain), substantial strains, in excess of 100%, may develop locally, and for very small structures, such as soldered interconnections comprising a few grains, structural integrity may be adversely affected. To examine this possibility, freestanding samples of tin, Sn-3.5wt.%Ag, Sn-0.5wt.%Cu, and Sn-3.8wt.%Ag-0.7wt.%Cu, have been subjected to thermal cycling. Temperature cycles from 30 degrees C to 125 degrees C or from -40 degrees C to 55 degrees C initially caused surface cracking, with openings up to several tens of microns after 3,000 cycles. Subsequently, the surface cracks grew into the interior of the specimens, with the maximum penetration ranging from a few microns after 100 cycles to more than 200 pm after 3,000 cycles. The cracks initiated from damage accumulated along grain boundaries. For the same temperature range, less damage resulted after the lower maximum (or mean) temperature cycle, and there appears to be a thermally activated component of cracking. The microstructure produced by rapid cooling (water quenching) was slightly more resistant than that formed by air, or furnace, cooling. Apart from microstructural coarsening, no damage accrues from isothermal exposure alone.

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