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Understanding and measuring copper oxidation in organic printed circuit boards operating at high temperatures.
Keywords: High temperature PCBs, Copper Oxidation, Test Methodologies
Current electronic applications that are designed to operate at above 200degC are heavily dependent on ceramic substrate solutions. These can be expensive to implement, produce heavier solutions prone to mechanical damage and have fewer suppliers, limiting the choice for end-users. Organic PCBs offer significant cost benefits but are prone to thermal degradation of both the available resin systems and the copper based interconnect. Over recent years, the authors have participated in a number of collaborative research programmes that have highlighted the issues in operating organic based substrates a higher temperatures. Resin systems are now available with higher decomposition temperatures (Td) and increasingly the operation of electronic assemblies at higher temperatures is limited by the ability of copper clad printed circuit boards (PCBs) to maintain circuit integrity. This paper summarises the work undertaken by the authors to develop and better understand the performance of PCBs at higher temperatures. It focuses on the testing and materials evaluation undertaken at the NPL to determine the long term performance of alternative PCB materials in harsh environments. Details of the electrical performance of PCB interconnects during the test regimes are given as well as the degradation mechanisms experienced. Details will be given of the innovative test methodology developed by the authors to electrically measure copper oxidation rates during high temperature ageing.
Martin Wickham, Senior Research Scientist
National Physical Laboratory
Teddington, Middx
United Kingdom

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