Journal of Electronic Materials, Vol. 36, No. 2, February 2007

Evaluation of Electrochemical Migration on Printed Circuit Boards with Lead-Free and Tin-Lead Solder

Xiaofei He, Michael Azarian, and Michael Pecht
Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park,
MD 20742, USA.


To evaluate the current leakage and electrochemical migration behavior on printed circuit boards with eutectic tin-lead and lead-free solder, IPC B-24 comb structures were exposed to 65°C and 88% relative humidity conditions under direct-current (DC) bias for over 1500 h. These boards were processed with either Sn-3.0Ag-0.5Cu solder or Sn-37Pb solder. In addition to solder alloy, board finish (organic solderability preservative versus lead-free hot air solder leveling), spacing (25 mil versus 12.5 mil), and voltage (40 V versus 5 V bias) were also assessed by using in situ measurements of surface insulation resistance (SIR) and energy-dispersive spectroscopy after testing. It was shown that an initial increase of SIR was caused by consumption of electroactive species on the surface, intermittent drops of SIR were caused by dendritic growth, and a long-term SIR decline was caused by electrodeposition of a metallic layer. The prolonged SIR decline of Sn-3.0Ag-0.5Cu boards was simulated by three-dimensional (3D) progressive and instantaneous nucleation models, whose predictions were compared with experimental data. Sn-37Pb boards exhibited comigration of Sn, Pb, and Cu, while Sn-3.0Ag- 0.5Cu boards incurred comigration of Sn, Ag, and Cu. Among the migrated species, Sn always dominated and was observed as either a layer or in polyhedral deposits, Pb was the most common element found in the dendrites, Cu was a minor constituent, and Ag migrated only occasionally. Compared with solder alloy, board finishes played a secondary role in affecting SIR due to their complexation with or dissolution into the solder. The competing effect between electric field and spacing was also investigated.

Key words: Electrolyte, electrochemical migration, dendrite, current leakage, surface insulation resistance, reliability

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