Impurity and alloying effects on interfacial reaction layers in Pb-free soldering

T. Laurila*, V. Vuorinen, M. Paulasto-Kröckel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

256 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this review is to study the effect of minor alloying and impurity elements, typically present in electronics manufacturing environment, on the interfacial reactions between Sn and Cu, which is the base system for Pb-free soldering. Especially, the reasons leading to the observed interfacial reaction layers and their microstructural evolution are analysed. The following conclusions have been reached. Alloying and impurity elements can have three major effects on the reactions between the Sn-based solder and the conductor metal: Firstly, they can increase or decrease the reaction/growth rate. Secondly, additives can change the physical properties of the phases formed (in the case of Cu and Sn, ε and η). Thirdly they can form additional reaction layers at the interface or they can displace the binary phases that would normally appear and form other reaction products instead. Further, the alloying and impurity elements can be divided roughly into two major categories: (i) elements (Ni, Au, Sb, In, Co, Pt, Pd, and Zn) that show marked solubility in the intermetallic compound (IMC) layer (generally take part in the interfacial reaction in question) and (ii) elements (Bi, Ag, Fe, Al, P, rare-earth elements, Ti and S) that are not extensively soluble in IMC layer (only change the activities of species taking part in the interfacial reaction and do not usually participate themselves). The elements belonging to category (i) usually have the most pronounced effect on IMC formation. It is also shown that by adding appropriate amounts of certain alloying elements to Sn-based solder, it is possible to tailor the properties of the interfacial compounds to exhibit, for example, better drop test reliability. Further, it is demonstrated that if excess amount of the same alloying elements are used, drastic decrease in reliability can occur. The analysis for this behaviour is based on the so-called thermodynamic-kinetic method.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-38
Number of pages38
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2010
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Alloying elements
  • Diffusion kinetics
  • Intermetallic compound layers
  • Lead-free solders
  • Phase diagrams
  • Thermodynamics


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