A Growing Problem
Why ICT equipment susceptibility to contamination damage is growing
At room level, higher packing densities of more powerful equipment demand extremely efficient heatsinks and greater air exchange volume. These heatsinks are more susceptible to loss of efficiency through clogging, while the higher air flow carries more airborne contaminants to the equipment.
The age of existing floor structures is also becoming an issue. Many facilities now have flooring that has been in place for over 10 years, allowing zinc whiskers to reach a length sufficient to bridge exposed conductor tracks. This can be exacerbated by increased maintenance and upgrade activity in raised-floor facilities. Any activity that involves moving flooring can dislodge whiskers, and in current high-tech environments, computing facilities frequently undergo regular maintenance activity such as adding and removing hardware or repositioning and reconfiguring equipment.
At equipment level, OEMs constantly strive to deliver more processing power from smaller enclosures. The resulting shrinkage means smaller distances between adjacent circuit board tracks, which can more easily be bridged by smaller conductive particles. Processor chips and other ICs are also tending to be driven by lower voltages, so there is less energy available to melt conductive bridges as they appear across tracks. In addition, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, which came into force in July 2006, required the elimination of lead from electronic equipment, forcing manufacturers to find alternative processes. Some of these replacement processes may be more susceptible to gaseous contamination. For example, creep corrosion has occurred in environments where lead based products performed satisfactorily. OEMs are now pursuing methods to eliminate this aspect of susceptibility.