Properties of lead-free solder alloys with rare earth element additions

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-44
Journal / PublicationMaterials Science and Engineering R: Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2004


Due to the inherent toxicity of lead (Pb), environmental regulations around the world have been targeted to eliminate the usage of Pb-bearing solders in electronic assemblies. This has prompted the development of "Pb-free" solders, and has enhanced the research activities in this field. In order to become a successful solder material, Pb-free alloys need to be reliable over long term use. Although many of these alloys possess higher strength than the traditional Sn-Pb ones, there still exist reliability problems such as electromigration and creep. Also, the solderability of many Pb-free alloys is inferior to that of Sn-Pb and any improvement or replacement will be welcomed by industry. In order to develop new Pb-free solders with better properties, trace amounts of rare earth (RE) elements were selected by some researchers as alloying additions into Sn-based solders. These solder alloys are mainly Sn-Ag, Sn-Cu, Sn-Zn and Sn-Ag-Cu. In general, the resulting RE-doped solders are found to have better performances than their original ones. The improvements include better wettability, creep strength and tensile strength. In particular, the increase in creep resistance in some RE-doped alloys gives creep rupture time increases by over four times for Sn-Ag and seven times for Sn-Cu and Sn-Ag-Cu. Like other Sn-based alloys, their creep rates are controlled by dislocation pipe diffusion in the Sn matrix. Also, it was found that the creep rate of these Sn-based alloys can be represented by a single empirical equation. With the addition of RE elements, solders for bonding on difficult substrates such as on semiconductors, diamond, and optical materials have also been developed. This report summarizes the effect of RE elements on the microstructure, mechanical properties, wetting behavior of certain Pb-free solder alloys. As an illustration of the advantage of RE doping, interfacial studies were carried out for electronic interconnections with RE-doped Pb-free alloys. It was found that the intermetallic compound (IMC) layer thickness and the amount of interfacial reaction were reduced in a Ball Grid Array (BGA) package. These results indicate that RE elements would play an important role in providing better electronic interconnections. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Research Area(s)

  • BGA, Creep, Hardness, Interfacial reaction, Lead-free solder alloy, Rare earth elements, Reliability, Sn-Ag, Sn-Ag-Cu, Sn-Cu, Sn-Zn, Tensile strength, Wettability