Metal Whiskers have been known to create failures in nuclear reactors, pacemakers, missiles, and satellites and they may be threatening your electronic devices. What are these tiny things that can cause so much destruction?
What are metal whiskers?
Metal whiskers are tiny hair-like growths that form on metals. When these electrically conductive whiskers appear on electronic assemblies, they can cause shorts or current leakage. The reason for their appearance is still hypothesized, but they are known to form mostly on pure tin or zinc finished surfaces. They can remain undetected, growing slowly out of your connectors until they destroy your cables and harnesses.
How do I recognize metal whiskers?
Metal whiskers may vary in shape and size. Some emerge as straight while others may appear curved, forked, pyramidal, or grooved. Growth time can take anywhere from days to years, and can reach up to 10 mm.
Shorts and arcs are a symptom of metal whiskers. High Voltage, or Hipot, testing can detect metal whiskers and help you avoid serious problems in your products. To learn more about high voltage, check out Cirris’ article on Testing Cables with High Voltage.