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Indium-Lead (In/Pb) Solder Alloys for Reliable Gold Interconnects in Semiconductor Assembly

Maria Durham, Indium’s new Technical Specialist in Semiconductor and Advanced Assembly Materials, has been doing some research on indium lead (In/Pb) solder alloys. We chatted about her findings this week. 

 [Andy C. Mackie: ACM] Which indium/lead solder alloys are most common, and what are their properties?

Maria Durham indium corporation semiconductor solder flux[Maria Durham: MD] Firstly, the use of lead-(Pb-)containing solders in some soldering applications is restricted due to local environmental and RoHS compliance, but there are still many applications where they are  allowed. Many military, aerospace, and industrial equipment uses, as well as many applications related to vehicles, are exempt. The table below shows the most common indium/lead (In/Pb) alloys (pink) and their properties, sorted by liquidus temperature; the higher of the two melting points (solidus and liquidus) seen for non-eutectic alloys. In blue are three comparison materials.


Indalloy 205 is the most commonly used, probably because it has the closest liquidus temperature to the tin/lead eutectic (183°C), 63Sn/37Pb (Indalloy 106). This means it can be reflowed using a standard Sn/Pb eutectic profile. The next most common alloys that are used are Indalloy7, 204, and 206.  Besides the melting range, indium has comparable thermal and electrical conductivity to standard materials.


Table 1 InPb copyright Indium Corporation 2012(C)[ACM] What makes indium-lead (In/Pb) solders so attractive, and why have we seen a recent resurgence in their usage?

 [MD] One main attraction to using indium/lead (In/Pb) solder alloys in soldering to precious metal surfaces is that, unlike tin-containing solders, they do not leach gold. That is, gold does not dissolve in them to any appreciable extent. During discussions at Semicon West in 2011, one of our California customers reported going through 8 simulated reflows with Indalloy 205 in contact with a gold surface with no loss of joint strength and no joint embrittlement. That is pretty impressive. Note that embrittlement is often caused by gold-intermetallic formation. It has been noted that even at 250°C, 50In/50Pb dissolves Au at a rate 13 times slower than it does into 63Sn/37Pb, although this, of course, is a kinetic, not a solubility limit, study.


The higher melting Indalloy 164 (92.5Pb/5In/2.5Ag) has the lowest coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of all of the In/Pb solders and is able to withstand the higher temperature excursions that can be seen in step-soldering type applications (where a very high melting solder is used to form the first joint, followed by a next lowest melting alloy, and so on). This is seen in applications such as power electronics assembly, where the first step solder is often used for die-attach either as a solder paste, wire, or preform. The high melting point helps the solder withstand the operational temperatures associated with under-the-hood electronics, in applications such as engine control modules, where Indalloy 151 (92.5Pb/5Sn/2.5Ag) or Indalloy 163 (95.5Pb/2Sn/2.5Ag) are most commonly used. In/Pb solder is excellent on very rigid structures such as ceramic-to-metal or ceramic-to-ceramic. The desired solidus / liquidus temperature range can be adjusted by changing the indium:lead ratio, making it very easy to “dial in” the alloy to a specific reflow process.

Another attraction to using In/Pb solders is that they exhibit good fatigue resistance in thermal cycling from -55°C to 125°C.  In testing, the 50In50Pb solder joint fatigue life is about 100 times greater than that for 63Sn/37Pb.

 [ACM] What fluxes are used in these applications, and how are they formulated differently?

 [MD] The fluxes most compatible with the lower melting point (<200°C) indium-containing solders are NC-SMQ-80 (solder paste) or the lower-tack TacFlux® 012 (suitable for use with wire, preforms, and spheres). These are no-clean fluxes, specifically formulated for lower temperature reflow.  Under appropriate low temperature reflow these fluxes leave behind benign residues that do not need to be cleaned off (“no-clean” flux), although they are often cleaned off in most practical applications, usually to ensure reliable wirebonds absent of flux spatter.


 [ACM]  Maria, thank you very much!

 To learn more, please contact us.

 Cheers!  Andy