Monday, March 7, 2011

Old electronics growing wiskers?

Strange phenomena of 70’s era
Electronics Developing Whiskers?
That can pose a very serious danger.

I was at a Construction Meeting several months ago when I heard some Engineers talking about 70’s era electronic products developing microscopic whiskers which could endanger the Space shuttle since it is based on 70’s era technology and I thought they were pulling everybody’s leg in the room until I did some research and believe it or not it is a true situation that has some very serious ramifications. This is not one of those Urban Legends’ you find on
The problem starts with the tin based solder that was used to secure parts on electronic boards in the 70’s the tin solder over time starts to degrade and can start forming microscopic sized whiskers which can make contact with other parts or metal cabinets etc which can short out and destroy the boards. Which could result in catastrophic failure of critical components in older Airplanes, Critical Control and Command Computers and Machinery and yes even the Space Shuttle Fleet. Especially any where there is vibration which could knock the whiskers loose. So what about life safety systems like fire alarms
Yes they could be affected as well. The recommendation is to remove and install new equipment that is critical in nature like a Fire Alarm and thou it could be expensive electronic equipment this old is already getting near its end life . Many alarm manufacturers recommend a life of 10 years for burglar equipment and 20 for fire systems . But yes I have seen electronic equipment last much longer than this if it is properly maintained and protected. So what to due a complete inspection of all boards for these whiskers would be a first step and continued vigilance should insure safe equipment performance. But be prepared to replace equipment and start planning now because at any time the whiskers could some day pop up unexpected.
There are many articles that go very in depth on this problem and can be easily found on a Google or Yahoo search of the internet.

1 comment:

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