tin whiskers

Coatings research project to tackle 'tin whiskers'

Aviation electronics firm Rockwell Collins is leading a research project looking at ways to impede the growth of ‘tin whiskers’ in lead-free devices.

The contract was awarded under the US Department of Defense’s Tin Whiskers Inorganic Coatings Evaluation (TWICE) programme. This research has the potential to mitigate the impact of tin whiskers on high-reliability, high-performance electronic systems caused by lead-free alloys and finishes in the aerospace and defence supply-chain and manufacturing systems.

Tin whiskers, which can grow from the pure tin surfaces commonly used on lead-free devices, are microscopic metal fibres thinner than a human hair that can bridge great distances and create short-circuits, leading to equipment failures.

This project will lead to a better scientific understanding of the mechanisms by which tin whiskers form and how they can be controlled with conformal coatings. Rockwell Collins will develop materials and the necessary processes to generate coatings that mitigate tin whisker growth on a variety of surfaces over a wide range of environmental conditions.

Rockwell Collins is heading a team that includes coatings specialist Plasma Ruggedized Solutions and the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering.

“This selection is recognition of our company’s continued leadership in research and development of materials and processes that are needed for lead-free electronics usage in high-reliability, high-performance aerospace and defence systems,” said John Borghese, vice president of the Rockwell Collins Advanced Technology Center.

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