Lead-free soldering on the curriculum

30 June 2009

Research carried out by a University of Leicester engineer aims to improve the reliability of lead-free soldering alloys used in the manufacture of electronic devices.

This attempt to take one more step towards implementing new environmentally-friendly materials in electronics production is supported by the Materials Research Group, Department of Engineering, University of Leicester.

Due to the considerable toxicity of lead, health concerns, environmental and legislation reasons efforts have been made to replace the traditional soldering alloys with new compositions. However, the reliability of the new Lead-Free materials requires further investigation.

Sergey Belyakov presented his research at the Festival of Postgraduate Research, earlier this week.

Belyakov said: “Traditional lead-based alloys have a 50 year history and there has been extensive investigation of their micro-structural stability and reliability. New solder materials have been proposed to replace the traditional alloys but there may be a deterioration in the reliability of solder-joints and consequently, the reliability of a piece of electronic equipment. The objective of the research is to bridge the technical gaps and meet the challenges of lead-free solder application in the electronics industry through the fundamental understanding of lead-free assembly and reliability issues. The research also demonstrates the effect of lead-free solder alloy composition on the interfacial reactions and micro-structural features.”

After graduating from the Moscow State Technical University with a first-class degree and Distinction majoring in Materials and Components for Solid State Electronics (2006), Belyakov identified that the fields of his scientific interests were established largely during writing a master’s thesis and taking a part-time job as an engineer at Siemens VDO – Avtel enterprise, which produces electronic control units for vehicle engines. The enterprise was transiting to lead-free technologies in production of electronic units and Belyakov took an active role in it, optimising the soldering process. After successfully establishing the new technology and achieving his VIVA, he continued education and entered the post-graduate course at Moscow State Technical University in order to continue research in the field of lead-free solders. One year later he was awarded the Russian Presidential Grant and went to the University of Leicester to study under MPhil programme, since the Leicester Engineering Department received the highest grading for research in General Engineering apart from Oxford and Cambridge in the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

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