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iNEMI Publishes Best Practices for Protecting the Reliability and Integrity of Electronic Equipment when Disinfecting for COVID-19

iNEMI
by iNEMI on September 17, 2020 8:29:06 PM EDT

iNEMI recently published “Recommended Best Practices for Protecting the Reliability and Integrity of Electronic Products and Assemblies when Disinfecting for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).” This best practices document was developed in response to member requests for guidance on how to mitigate the possible detrimental impact of disinfecting procedures on electronic equipment and assemblies. It provides an assessment of commonly used disinfecting chemicals and application methods, identifying those substances that minimize the risk of negative impact on electronic equipment when applied in an appropriate manner.

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Disinfecting procedures developed in response to the COVID-19 crisiscould potentially have a detrimental impact on electronic equipment and assemblies. Groups such as the U.S. EPA, CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have guidelines regarding cleaning and disinfecting for COVID-19, but none of these address the impact of disinfectants and their application methods on electronic equipment and assemblies.

Many commonly recommended disinfection substances and/or application methods could potentially cause failures in electronic equipment if the internal electronics were inadvertently exposed to them. This is an obvious concern for electronics manufacturers who want to ensure the safety of their employees, supply chain partners and customers, while protecting the reliability and integrity of their products.

“Keysight Technologies was getting questions from several customers about whether their chosen method of disinfecting their factory for the coronavirus would harm our (very expensive) products,” says Julie Silk, Material Reliability Program Manager and RoHS Program Manager for Keysight Technologies, a test and measurement solutions company. “They asked things like ‘would it be OK to spray or fog with corrosive or conductive chemicals?’ Colleagues at other companies were also getting similar questions. iNEMI was the best place to take this urgent problem to get electronics industry guidance pulled together and broadly disseminated. The iNEMI team acted quickly and put out a call for contributors from the membership for this ‘sprint’ project. Many major manufacturers were engaged, with detailed contributions and lively discussion. The guidance that resulted was thorough and approved by all.”

The iNEMI publication was developed by a team of experts from across iNEMI member organizations. They reviewed key industry, government and technical sources — including the U.S. EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) — to assemble the document. Knowing the risks associated with chemicals used in disinfectants should be understood prior to exposure. Table 1 summarizes the risk by List N Active Ingredient chemical family groupings.

Foresite, Inc. helps companies manufacture reliable electronics assemblies, specializing in reducing contamination risk. Senior Consultant and President Terry Munson reports they have been seeing contamination on disinfected hardware causing intermittent performance issues and hard shorts on top of conformally coated hardware. He says they have also seen multiple unit failures in the same location after weekly chemical disinfecting applications.

“Foresite has shared the iNEMI document with dozens of clients and many are happy to have something they can use to understand what risks they are dealing with, at both their facilities and at subcontractors’ facilities,” says Terry. “One client has used the iNEMI document to require suppliers to complete a new process evaluation of any of the chemicals referenced in the document that are being used in production or shipping locations.”

Download a copy of “Recommended Best Practices for Protecting the Reliability and Integrity of Electronic Products and Assemblies when Disinfecting for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).”

Table 1. Assessment of Chemicals on EPA List N for Risk to Electronics

Active Ingredient / Chemical Family

Impact on Electronics

Rationale

Alcohols (e.g., isopropyl alcohol (IPA), ethanol)

Low

 

Low risk for corrosion at recommended concentrations.

Phenolic & Hexanediol

Medium

Risk of corrosion – Is a weak organic acid that can chemically bond to metal surfaces that could lead to a lower surface resistivity and could weakly attack insulators.

Amine /Ammonia

High

Risk of corrosion - Compounds will react with copper and remove its protective oxide.

Halogen

High

Risk of corrosion - Will enhance copper, aluminum, and stainless-steel corrosion. Pitting corrosion will be the most prevalent but can also initiate atmospheric corrosion. 

Acids (e.g., citric acid, carboxylic acid)

High

Risk of corrosion - Can lead to accelerated electrolyte formation and create various types of corrosion.

Acetates

High

Risk of corrosion - Will act as a catalyst on any legacy lead based electronic forming Lead Carbonate from CO2 in air which then subsequently disintegrates.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Medium
(Lower concentrations)

 

High 
(Higher concentrations)

Risk of corrosion - Is an oxidizer and as concentrations increase and in the right environment may create an acid or electrolytes leading to various types of corrosion. Understanding concentration level and exposure time is important to risk assessment. If used, apply with appropriate caution.

 

iNEMI
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