Near-eutectic Pb-Sn solders are widely used for joints in electrical devices. These are liable to failure by thermal fatigue during operation of the device. Since the thermal fatigue load is often in shear, mechanisms of thermal fatigue in shear are of particular interest. Recent research has shown that the thermal fatigue of eutectic solders in shear is preceded by the formation of bands of coarsened material in the eutectic microstructure, which concentrate the deformation and cause the nucleation of fatigue cracks. Such coarsened bands are also observed in isothermal fatigue and unidirectional creep in shear. Since creep experiments are relatively simple to conduct and analyze, these have been used to study the formation and growth of coarsened bands. The mechanism includes three steps: the formation of inhomogeneous shear bands, the onset of recrystallization in the shear band to create a planar region of coarsened material, and the propagation of the coarsened band by progressive recrystallization at its tip. The results are applied to thermal fatigue and some of their implications are discussed.

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