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Alloy toxicity research paper garners award

February 19, 2010

An Arizona State University materials science and engineering professor and a former ASU engineering student shared the award for the best research paper published in the past year in a leading materials science and engineering journal.

Their research sought to understand how the reliability of Pb-free solder alloys now used in consumer electronics could be improved.

Nikhilesh Chawla, a professor in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace, Chemical and Materials Engineering, a part of ASU’s Ira A Fulton Schools of Engineering, and Rajen Sidhu, now a senior engineer with Intel Corporation, were presented the award on Feb. 16 from the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) during the annual Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) Meeting and Exhibition in Seattle.

Sidhu earned a Ph. D. in materials science and engineering from ASU in 2007.

The Rossiter W. Raymond Memorial Award is given to the best paper whose lead author and/or co-author is 35 or younger at the time of publication. Editors of research journals of four leading materials science and engineering societies nominate one paper each year from their publications for the award, and the winner is selected from among them.

Chawla’s and Sidhu’s paper was published in Metallurgical and Materials Transactions, the flagship journal of The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society. It competed against papers published in the journals of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, the Association for Iron and Steel Technology, and the Society of Petroleum Engineering.

Their paper explored metallic alloys used in packaging of electronic components for electrical and mechanical interconnects. Such alloys have been typically made of a toxic Lead-Tin (Pb-Sn) alloy. There have been numerous efforts to make these alloys Pb-free, especially since they are used in electronic packaging for many popular products such as desktop computers, laptops, and cell phones.

The research looked at the thermal fatigue behavior of Pb-free Sn-rich alloys. Thermal fatigue arises from turning electronic devices on and off, and eventually results in failure of the component. Chawla’s and Sidhu’s work  was the first to look at thermal fatigue factor related to these alloys in detail and provide critical insights on the microstructural design of the materials and propose how best to design the alloys for thermal fatigue resistance.

Chawla and Sidhu shared a $2,500 prize for winning the award.

Writer: Jessica Graham