New Lower Temperature Active Solders Developed

S-Bond Technologies has developed and proven a new, lower temperature active solder that melts from 135 – 140°C. The solder, S-Bond® 140 is based around the Bismuth-Tin (Bi-Sn) eutectic composition. This new solder is a lower temperature active solder that enables multi-step soldering where previously soldered connections/seals are not remelted. Active solders that melt below 150C are also finding use in thermally sensitive applications where Sn-Ag based solders that melt over 215°C can thermally degrade the component parts being assembled. Lower temperature soldering also can more effectively bond dissimilar materials where thermal expansion mismatch many times fractures or distorts an assembly’s component parts.

S-Bond 140 is already finding application in glass-metal seals in electronic packages where higher temperature soldering alloys would have damaged the packages’ components. S-Bond 140 is also being used to bond heat pipes and vapor chamber thermal management devices to protect the thermally sensitive phase change fluids from damaging the devices when solder bonding to electronic and LED devices.

Electro-optical package to be bonded to heat sink with S-Bond® 140

Electro-optical package to be bonded to heat sink with S-Bond® 140

Joining of Heat Pipes and Vapor Chambers

Figure 1. Illustration of vapor chamber heat spreader with CPU heat source

Figure 1. Illustration of vapor chamber heat spreader with CPU heat source

Heat pipes and vapor chambers are used to transfer and/or spread heat from concentrated heat sources such as high brightness light emitting diodes (LEDs) and high computing speed CPUs. These active thermal management devices are enclosures/tubes that have porous wick materials lining the walls that provide condensation surfaces and small connected pores that via capillary force, transfer condensed fluids that were originally vaporized at heat source surfaces. When the vapor is transported via convection to the cooler surface to condense, the fluid is then channeled back to the heat source surfaces in a continuous cycle, in effect pumping the heat out of the package without using external power surfaces. Figure 1 illustrates a vapor chamber used to cool a mounted CPU.

Figure 2. Light emitting diode package bonded to vapor chamber

Figure 2. Light emitting diode package bonded to vapor chamber

Thermal management is critical in the life and performance of such electronic components that all employ a variety of thermal interface materials (TIMs). With increased power and speed, the polymer-based TIMs being used today are limiting and metal bonding with solders is growing in application. Conventional Sn-Ag soldering temperatures can overheat the thermal fluids in heat pipes and chambers while Indium (In) solders are expensive and do not bond as well as active solders. Responding to this need, engineers at S-Bond® Technologies have announced its latest alloy, S-Bond® 140 as an effective TIM for bonding CPUs or LEDS to heat pipes and vapor chambers.  The Bi-Sn-Ag-Ti alloy can wet and join to all metals including aluminum and to most ceramics and glasses.  S-Bond® 140 is lead free, does not require plating and flux thus keeping electronic and LED packages clean.

Figure 3. S-Bond 140 bonded heat pipe assembly

Figure 3. S-Bond 140 bonded heat pipe assembly

Figure 2 illustrates a high brightness LED array that has been bonded to a Ni-plated copper vapor chamber with S-Bond 140 solder. This technique provides a high strength and high thermal conductivity metallic solder bond. Figure 3 is another example showing S-Bond 140 solder bonding copper heat pipe tubes (water as the phase change fluid) into aluminum slots to enhance the cooling from the heat pipe to the aluminum package base without plating and flux.. Normally when soldering heat pipes over 200°C, the water in the heat pipe goes to vapor and the resultant pressure distends/distorts the thin copper tube walls. Lower temperature metallic solders, such as S-Bond 140.

Contact us for more information and to order our S-Bond products.

Design Considerations for Solder Bonding

Solder bonding is a versatile lower temperature bonding process that is used in joining a range of metals, ceramics, glass and metal: ceramic composites. By definition, solders are joining filler metals that melt below 450°C. Solder bonding is typically used in the assembly of structures for its good thermal and/or electrical contact or for creating seals. The advantage of solder bonding stems from lower temperature exposure (less that 400°C), compared to brazing when joining thermally sensitive materials.  Alternatively, compared to bonding with epoxy adhesives, solder bonding is a more conductive bond, but does require higher temperature exposure and the wetting of the molten metal to the bonding surfaces.

Figure 1. S-Bond joined heat pipe assembly bonding copper pipes to aluminum base

Figure 1. S-Bond joined heat pipe assembly bonding copper pipes to aluminum base

Because of it excellent thermal and electrical conductivity, solder bonding finds application in the manufacture of sputter targets, heat spreaders and cold plates and other related thermal management components. Solder bonding is also used to seal ceramic:metal and glass windows used in optical based sensors and in other fluid cooled enclosures.  Figures 1 and 2 show several typical solder bonded parts.

Solder bonding (e.g. S-Bond®), despite being versatile and capable of joining most materials, one must consider several issues when active solder bonding…

  • Thermal expansion mismatch
  • Size and shape of bonded parts
  • Interaction with post solder bond processing
  • Galvanic corrosion coupling
Figure 2. Aluminum to copper cooling tubes and ceramic to plated copper sputter targets.

Figure 2. Aluminum to copper cooling tubes and ceramic to plated copper sputter targets.

In every application being evaluated for a solder bonding solution, the component and process design needs to consider the following issues.

  • Minimize CTE mismatch of bonded materials to prevent distortion or fracture.
  • Understand post bonding processes to prevent damage of bond interface.
  • Know Service Temperature and Thermal cycling effects on bond interface.
  • Understand effects of service environment on bond interface corrosion

Thermal expansion mismatch (CTE): solder bonding requires heating the component parts in an assembly to 120 – 400°C, depending on the solder filler metal being used.  When similar materials are being joined there is no CTE mismatch so it is not a concern. However; many times solder bonding is being used to lower the CTE mismatch… but despite the lower bonding temperature, it is not alone a “silver bullet” universal solution. Even when heating to 250°C, melting for Sn-Ag based solders, upon cooling once the solder solidifies it can transfer a strain. Then the CTE derived stresses can distort metal assemblies, fracture a glass or ceramic components or fracture the bond. Thus, one needs to minimize CTE mismatch stresses by selecting assemble component materials that are as close as possible in CTE.

When matching CTE is not practical, then one should design the component parts with size and thickness in mind… larger bond areas will “accumulate” more stress and lead to more distortion and/or fracture. A solution for larger parts is to “tile” the component parts; by tiling (mosaic) the strain mismatch accumulation is interrupted and lower the accumulation of stress in the assembly.

Post solder bond processes such as post solder bond heating either with another solder process, welding or bake outs to dry or cure components. Coatings may also be required on a bonded assembly where the heat and or chemical exposure of the coating process, as in electro-plating (see the coating blog article), interacts negatively with the solder bond.

When post processing a solder bonded part, temperature exposures typically should be below 90% of the solidus temperature (temperatures where solder alloys begin to melt) to maintain the bond. The thermal cycle itself can be damaging to the bond, even if the temperature is below this limit, especially with assemblies that have dissimilar materials. The processes that can degrade solder bonds include, other solder steps, welding, bake out or curing, and coating. Therefore; one needs to understand their impact on the solder filler metals and the solder bond interface.

Service conditions can also limit the performance and life of solder bonds. Temperature in service generally needs to be restricted to be below 80% of the solidus temperature of the solder filler metal (although active solders such as S-Bond® can be used up to 90%) to maintain sufficient bond strength. Thermal cycles are more damaging than constant temperature exposure and can be more damaging when CTE mismatched materials. Joint design can mitigate some of these effects by…

  • Selecting component materials to lower CTE mismatch
  • Minimizing area of solder bond and consider tiling, if practical
  • Using thicker cross sections, if possible,  to limit distortion
  • Orienting or mechanically supporting solder bonds/seals to lower bond stresses.

With proper design solder bonded assemblies can be superior to epoxy bonded joints and work very well and compete with brazed or welded joints

Contact us for more information and to order our S-Bond products and Services.