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Zinc and Cadmium Whiskers

Environmental damage to Computers and Electronics

Metal coatings can grow in the correct environment, causing expensive damage to computers and clean rooms. Zinc and Cadmium Whiskers phenomenon shows up in cadmium compounds and alloys, Zinc and zinc alloys, Magnesium, Selenium, tellurium and alloys, even pure silver and its compounds, just to name a few.

Zinc Whiskers or zinc needles:

Metal coatings can grow in the correct environment, causing expensive damage to computers and clean rooms.

Scratched zinc plated low carbon steel enclosure of an AC power supply is causing zinc whiskers to be found within the product that the AC power supply is located in. Scratch has caused bare metal to be exposed with no signs of corrosion present.

Zinc plated chassis for our Internet routers.

Microscopic zinc whiskers coming from the sheet metal frame that holds our electronic back panels in place.

New alloy plates are less susceptible to whiskers than plain zinc, for the same reason that tin-lead is less susceptible than pure tin.

What finishes should NOT be used in computer underfloor installations in the prevention of zinc whiskers?
http://www.finishing.com/179/11.shtml

As technology became more sophisticated, circuits became much smaller and denser and operated at lower voltages. Higher voltages vaporize the whiskers. The growth of whiskers is not new but the ability to create problems in new technology is increased.
http://www.bacs.com.au/zinc.htm
'The Phenomenon of Zinc Whisker Growth and the Rotary Switch' by J.R.Downs and R.M.Francis in the Aug. '94 issue of Metal Finishing magazine.
http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/reference/tech_papers/1994-downs-zinc-whisker-liability.pdf

Cadmium Whiskers, cadmium plated parts

Cadmium vaporizes (sublimes) easily on earth at elevated temperatures from its solid state, without melting. Also, it sublimes at lower and lower temperatures as the surrounding pressure decreases. If its vapor pressure is higher than the surrounding pressure, it will sublime.

Phenomenon shows up in cadmium compounds and alloys, Zinc and zinc alloys, Magnesium, Selenium, tellurium and alloys, even pure silver and its compounds, just to name a few.

The legal definition of 'asbestos'

is any inorganic substance that has a 100:1 length-to-width ratio or greater. By this definition, zinc whiskers are classified as asbestos and a manufacturer could be sued on the grounds that the company is exposing their workers to asbestos. This legal definition is different than the true geologic definition of asbestos, which has this description in addition to others but is limited to a small range of silicate minerals. As a side note, 95% of all asbestos does NOT cause lung cancer. They do, however, causes asbestosis, which is the scarring of lung tissue as these crystals get stuck in the lung, which more research needs to be done.
Are Zinc whiskers growing in your computer room? PDF Doc
http://www.dataclean.com/pdf/zincwhiskers3.pdf#search='zinc%20whiskers'

Photos of whiskers:
http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/photos/index.html

Whisker Failures:
http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/failures/index.htm

Medical Equipment Failures
http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/failures/index.htm#medical

Industrial/Power
http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/failures/index.htm#power

Computer Servers
http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/failures/index.htm#computer

Military Failures
http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/failures/index.htm#military

Commercial (non-NASA) Satellite Failures
http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/failures/index.htm#satellite


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