Solder joints provide mechanical support, electrical and thermal interconnection between packaging levels in microelectronics assembly systems. Proper functioning of these interconnections and the reliability of the electronic packages depend largely on the mechanical properties of the solder joints. Lead free solders are common as interconnects in electronic packaging due to their relatively high melting point, attractive mechanical properties, thermal cycling reliability, and environment friendly chemical properties. However, environmental conditions, such as, operating temperature, aging temperature, and aging time significantly affect these properties due to the microstructural evolution of the solder that occurs during aging. Moreover, electronic devices, sometimes experience harsh environment applications including well drilling, geothermal energy, automotive power electronics, and aerospace engines, where solders are exposed to very high temperatures from T = 125–200 °C. Mechanical properties as well as microstructural study of lead free solders at elevated temperatures are limited in literature. Previous investigations on the microstructural evolution mainly emphasized on aging at temperatures up to 125 °C. In addition, those studies were limited on investigating the coarsening of Ag3Sn IMC particles within the beta-Sn matrix.

In this work, the microstructural evolutions of SAC305 (96.5Sn-3.0Ag-0.5Cu) BGA joints were investigated for different aging conditions utilizing Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). In particular, our approach has been to monitor aging induced microstructural changes occurring within fixed regions in selected lead free solder joints and to create time-lapse imagery of the microstructure evolution. Aging was performed at T = 125, 150, and 175 °C for several durations up to 20 days, and the topography of the microstructure of a fixed region was captured using the SEM system. This process generated several images of the microstructure as the aging progressed. We have also explored the Mechanical behavior, and aging effects of SAC305 solder joints at the extreme high testing temperature of T = 150 °C using the method of nanoindentation. To study the aging effects, solder joints were preconditioned for 0, 1, 5, 10, and 30 days at T = 125 °C in a box oven. Nanoindentation testing was then performed on the aged specimens at a test temperature of T = 150 °C to extract the elastic modulus, hardness, and creep performance of the aged material.

As expected, the analysis of the evolving SAC305 BGA microstructure showed a significant amount of diffusion of silver and copper in the beta-tin matrix during aging. In addition, a very remarkable growth of copper-tin layer at solder joint and copper pad interface in the PCB side has been visualized and measured with aging time and temperature. The Quantitative analysis of the evolving microstructure showed that the particles coalesced during aging leading to a decrease in the number of particles. This caused an increase in the average diameter of the particles, which helped us to build a model to guide the growth of IMC particles at extreme high temperature aging. Nanoindentation test results also showed a huge degradation in mechanical properties with aging time increment.

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