Practically all microelectronic assemblies in use today utilize Pb–Sn solders for interconnection. With the advent of chip scale packaging technologies, the usage of solder connections has increased. The most widely used Pb–Sn solder has the eutectic composition. Emerging environmental regulations worldwide, most notably in Europe and Japan, have targeted the elimination of Pb usage in electronic assemblies, due to the inherent toxicity of Pb. This has made the search for suitable “Pb-free” solders an important issue for microelectronics assembly. Approximately 70 Pb-free solder alloy compositions have been proposed thus far. There is a general lack of engineering information, and there is also significant disparity in the information available on these alloys. The issues involved can be divided into two broad categories: manufacturing and reliability/performance. A major factor affecting alloy selection is the melting point of the alloy, since this will have a major impact on the other polymeric materials used in microelectronic assembly and encapsulation. Other important manufacturing issues are cost, availability, and wetting characteristics. Reliability related properties include mechanical strength, fatigue resistance, coefficient of thermal expansion and intermetallic compound formation. The data available in the open literature have been reviewed and are summarized in this paper. Where data were not available, such as for corrosion and oxidation resistance, chemical thermodynamics was used to develop this information. While a formal alloy selection decision analysis methodology has not been developed, less formal approaches indicate that Sn-rich alloys will be the Pb-free solder alloys of choice, with three to four alloys being identified for each of the different applications. Research on this topic continues at the present time at a vigorous pace, in view of the imminence of the issue.
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