Detecting Moisture and Humidity Contamination in Semiconductors

Finding water has long been a crucial point in the development of the world. The same is true for semiconductors. It is important to detect the presence of water, both after a bonding process or inside a sealed and fully packaged system.

New sensor applications are exposing electronic components to various different environments and harsh conditions of operation. Therefore it is vital to detect humidity and water contamination that might jeopardise the functionality of a chip.

Water is constituted of light elements and so particularly hard to detect using conventional lab techniques. This is especially hard to do in a non-destructive and non-invasive way.

The Solution – Neutron Imaging Extending The Limits of Detection

Neutron radiography and tomography are non-destructive testing techniques that are used to inspect the interior of large samples (in the millimeters-centimeters range). Neutrons interact strongly with light elements such as hydrogen and have extremely low detection limits. They have no electrical charge and so penetrate deeply into matter which enables bulk characterization.

These characteristics mean that neutron imaging is a powerful tool for the characterization of all substrates where the presence of H2O can be a major problem. Neutron 2D/3D imaging is systemically used for industrial activities at the ILL facilities in Grenoble.

A very high neutron flux and a unique “all purpose” instrument enable high-speed tomography and real-time imaging. Combined with a highly flexible testing setup, this gives customers the freedom to perform in situ/in operando characterization.

The Results – What Can be Expected

Neutron imaging can be applied to trace fluid inside a package or detect moisture/water penetration inside sealed electronic devices. For example, it is used in microfluidic cooling applications.

In Grenoble, the international neutron source ILL provides a versatile and highly flexible testing environment. Due to the high neutron flux available, it is possible to perform in operando characterization with real spatial resolution from 100 mm to 10 mm. There is also the option to perform complementary X-ray imaging at the same time, with a spatial resolution of 5 mm.

Neutron radiogram of a heat exchanger partially filled with water, exemplifying its unique capabilities for water detection.

The remarkable penetration capabilities of the neutron shown by a neutron radiogram of a displacement meter.

Different absorption coefficients for different materials shown by a neutron radiogram of a PCB.

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This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by The Platform for Advanced Characterisation Grenoble (PAC-G).

For more information on this source, please visit The Platform for Advanced Characterisation Grenoble (PAC-G) and NeXT-Grenoble.

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