solder in space


Edited: 28 Mar 2006, 2:53 p.m.


Interesting. This could be important if one of us gets a seat on the Mars mission and takes along a bunch of broken HP calculators to fix in his/her spare time.




Get 'em fixed FAST. I don't think it has to be the thirteenth mission in a series named after a Greek god to suffer a systemwide computer failure...

... oh, and bring a freshman physics text (HP manuals aren't what they used to be); even advanced spacefarers can use that to get home!


That's terrible! I mean, don't we have enough of war here on Earth without shipping our solders off...

Oh, wait ..


Another neat thing solder can do in space is grow huge tin "whiskers". This phenomnon has damaged saveral satellites. Hughes, in particular, had a bunch of relays short out because the whiskers shorted out the relay contacts.


That's fascinating! What causes the precipitation of tin from the solidified melt, the reduced pressure?


Whiskers grow here on earth, too. They are a major problem with some galvanized steel computer room platforms--you know the ones, with the perforated floors. They also grow inside electronics. The end result is shorting out of stuff. Can be very expensive.

What causes them? Thermodynamics!:-)


Yes, yes, of course it's thermodynamics. But I am not all that familiar with the long term chemistry of solders.

I am somewhat familiar with the chemistry of semiconductors. I am surprised that whiskers would segregate and grow in, say a chip or a component. Or, do you mean at the contacts or junctions?

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