Symposium Conference Proceedings

Data Center Woes: Reliability Issues Plague RoHS-Compliant Electronics

Authors: Henri Seng and Chris Muller
Company: Purafil, Inc.
Date Published: 4/18/2012   Conference: Symposium

Abstract: Concerns about electronic equipment reliaibility surfaced even before the European Union and China versions of RoHS regulations went into effect in 2006. There are now more than a dozen countries with some type of lead-free manufacturing regulations in place that affect everything from consumer electronics to industrial process and control systems.

Increases in the rate of corrosion-related hardware failures in data centers, highlighted by the number of recent publications on the subject, has led to new specifications for the data center environment that require the monitoring and control of gaseous (and particulate) contamination. These additional environmental measures are especially important for data centers located in urban centers, near industries and/or other sources that could produce corrosive airborne contaminants.

The continuing reduction in circuit board feature sizes and the miniaturization of components necessary to improve hardware performance, makes electtronic hardware more prone to attack by corrosive contaminants. Manufacturers are in a constant struggle to maintain the reliability of their equipment and thus the need to control airborne contaminants in the data center and to specify the acceptable limits is now critical to the continued reliable operation of datacom and IT equipment.

It is incumbent on the data center managers to do their part in maintaining hardware reliability by monitoring and controlling the gaseous and particulate contamination in their data centers. The gaseous contamination should be within the modified ANSI/ISA 71.04-1985 severity level of G1. For data centers with higher gaseous contamination levels, gas-phase air filtration of the ventilation air and the air inside the data center is recommended. Data centers must also be kept clean to ISO 14644-1, Class 8 for particulates and sources of dust inside data centers must be reduced.

Data centers in many urban locations have reported failures of servers and hard disk drives due to sulfur corrosion. Desktop and laptop computers, servers, data communications (datacom) equipment and other information technology (IT) equipment are at risk due to RoHS. This paper will discuss ongoing relibility issues related to RoHS-compliant electronic equipment in data centers. Air quality monitoring and failure analysis data will be presented from several different sites in Asia illustrating the fact that corrosive environments exist in locations that would otherwise be considered benign if not for the changes mandated by RoHS legislation.

Key Words: 

China RoHS, copper corrosion, corrosion control, data center, electronic equipment, ISA Standard 71.04-1985, process controls, reactivity monitoring, reliability, RoHS, silver corrosion

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