Corrosion in electronics

Expertise in the corrosion behavior of materials, components, and systems

Corrosion is defined in DIN EN ISO 8044 as a process in which a material becomes damaged due to interaction with its environment. Examples of such influencing factors in the environment include moisture, high temperatures, or pollutants. The corrosion process, which often progresses gradually, can lead to substantial impairment of the function of a component or system and even to its failure. Corrosion can occur under mechanical stress as well as when no stress is present. However, corrosion stress and corrosion behavior can be clarified and quantified through measurements specifically designed for individual materials and combinations of materials and by measuring the effects of different media on them. Such tests are a key to efficient reliability analyses.

Korrosion Defekt Querschnitt Fraunhofer IMWS
© Fraunhofer IMWS
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis of the formation of defects on the cross-section of a corroded Bronze-Ni-NiPd-Au layer system

In tests of the quality of microelectronic and power electronic components, and especially of their packaging and connection technology, an understanding of the corrosion behavior of materials plays an increasingly important role. In addition, electrochemical (ionic) migration or ECM is also becoming more and more significant as a fault mechanism. This is due on one hand to the increasing use of of electronic systems in the automobile industry or in renewable energy applications, for example, where the materials and components are exposed to extreme conditions that can facilitate or accelerate corrosive processes. On the other hand, increased miniaturization means components have more surface area but the same volume – which offers corrosive media more potential targets.


At the Fraunhofer IMWS, we have a wide range of corrosion test methods available. With our corrosion test methods, we can analyze electrochemical corrosion and migration processes triggered by the presence of an electrolyte or an electrical field (such as pitting, contact, and crevice corrosion) as well as corrosion caused by purely chemical processes. The experts at the institute in Halle (Saale) have been examining electronic components with respect to their fault mechanisms and causes of failure since 1992. The spectrum of testing and analysis methods ranges from comparative measurements using standard methods and chemical analyses (even for difficult-to-access electronic components like connectors or circuit boards) to the development of materials, for example by chemically modifying the surfaces of contact materials. One focus of the Fraunhofer IMWS is high-resolution physical methods (scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray analysis, transmission electron microscopy) that make it possible to detect local damage due to corrosion ranging from wire connections and electrical contacts to the micro- and nanomorphology, for example, as well as enable the clarification of failures. Together with partners, the researchers also develop new methods and devices for testing corrosion.

Electrochemical measurements with copper electrodes and Na2SO4 electrolytes. 5V volts are applied to the left side and 0V to the right side, causing dendrites to grow (shown in real time) and short circuits to form.

Our offer

Would you like to learn more about the expertise the Fraunhofer IMWS has to offer regarding corrosion behavior, corrosion testing, and test methods? You will find an overview here.

Research findings and projects

Corrosion behavior in automotive electronics

The percentage of failures due to corrosive processes in automotive electronics has increased significantly in recent years due to miniaturization and the widespread use of control electronics. A rapid test now enables efficient testing of the corrosion behavior of new materials and combinations of materials.

Sandy Klengel receives the “Outstanding Paper” awards at the European Microelectronics and Packaging Conference (EMPC)

New results on the influence of copper wire material on corrosion-resistant packages and systems for high temperature applications were recognized.

Faster test methods for susceptibility to corrosion

Moisture, temperature, and pollution can trigger corrosive processes in the materials used in electronic components. Corrosion usually occurs locally and has a significant impact on electronic components and can even lead to their failure. At the Fraunhofer IMWS, a new and faster method for testing corrosion was developed.

Improved corrosion protection through optimized surfaces

When materials react with moisture or gases such as oxygen or nitrogen oxides, the resulting corrosion processes can affect the properties of the materials. The Fraunhofer IMWS is working on solutions to protect materials used in electrical contacts against corrosion by optimizing their surfaces.

Corrosion mechanism verified at the chip level

Electronic components for automotive applications are exposed to extreme operating conditions, which then pose considerable challenges to quality control processes. The Fraunhofer IMWS has described the causes of corrosion defects in dielectric layers of a Hall sensor under the influence of various stress factors.