This paper presents an experimental study of copper dissolution in molten tin and tin-silver (Sn-Ag) solders and the formation and presence of the Cu-Sn intermetallic compound at solder/copper interfaces. During the experiments, copper (99.9% pure) samples, coated with a RMA flux, were dipped vertically in a molten solder for different time periods ranging from 5 seconds to 10 minutes. The molten solder was maintained at temperatures of 232°C, 250°C and 300°C for pure tin and 221°C, 250°C, and 300°C for Sn-3.5%Ag respectively. The samples were then cut, cleaned and cold mounted in epoxy at ambient temperature. Mechanical grinding, finish polishing, etching, and optical metallographic procedures were utilized for examining the microstructures of the polished and etched samples. The average thickness of the intermetallic compound and the amount of copper dissolved was determined. Experimental results indicate the temperature of molten solder to control the rate of dissolution of copper and the formation and presence of intermetallic compounds at the interfaces. At a given temperature of the solder temperature, the rate of dissolution of copper in the solder revealed a rising trend with an increase in dwell time of copper in the solder. For short contact time periods, the dissolution rate is low and the thickness of the intermetallic compound is small. With an increase in dwell time, the dissolution rate of copper rapidly increases and eventually reaches a plateau. Initiation of dissolution of copper causes a layer of the Sn-Cu intermetallic compound to form around the copper substrate. This in turn prevents direct contact of the copper substrate with the molten solder. The rate of formation of the layer of intermetallic compound reveals a similar trend. Based on experimental results, the kinetic parameters involved in governing the growth of the intermetallic were determined for the two solders. The parameters can be used to estimate the kinetics of copper dissolution and intermetallic compound formation during soldering.

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