Residual shear strength of Sn-Ag and Sn-Bi lead-free SMT joints after thermal shock

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-714
Journal / PublicationIEEE Transactions on Advanced Packaging
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2000


In this study, two lead-free solder alloys, namely 50 tin-50 bismuth (Sn-Bi) and 96.5 tin-3.5 silver (Sn-Ag), were studied for their use in surface mount solder joints. They have been considered as potential replacements for 63 tin-37 lead (Sn-Pb) solder. All joints were subjected to various cycles of thermal shock with temperature ranging from -25 to 125°C. Shear tests were conducted on joints with and without thermal shock treatment. Another thermal shock cycle (-25 to 85°C) was carried out on Sn-Bi solder joints for comparison. Their performance against thermal shock was compared with eutectic Sn-Pb solder by evaluating their residual shear strength and studying their microstructural change. 

For the Sn-Ag solder, a fine rod-like Ag3Sn intermetallic was formed in the solder matrix after the thermal shock. On the other hand, Bi-rich and Sn-rich phases appeared in the Sn-Bi solder after the -25 to 125°C thermal shock. Moreover, fine cracks were observed along the Bi-rich grain-like phase boundary. These were not observed in the Sn-Bi solder with the -25 to 85°C thermal shock treatment.
Voids and cracks were also observed in the joint of Sn-Bi solder alloy after 1000 thermal shock cycles. In addition, the thickness of intermetallic compound (IMC) of three solder alloys gradually grew with the number of thermal shock cycles. These defects reduced the strength of solder joint and led to thermal fatigue failure. In general, the shear strength is found to decrease with increasing number of thermal shock cycles. The Sn-Ag solder was better than the Sn-Bi solder in terms of residual thermal shock shear strength. Sn-Bi solder showed good properties when it was treated with the -25 to 85°C thermal shock. It has a strong potential to replace Sn-Pb solder in low temperature applications such as consumer electronics. The Sn-Ag solder is suitable for high temperature applications.