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The Department of Materials Science and Engineering marks a milestone this semester with its first entry in the Senior Design Showcase. A team of four students, guided by Assistant Professor Tengfei Jiang, will make department history when they present their project, titled “Alloy Design for Solder Joints in Advanced Semiconductor Devices.”

“Being the first in anything can be exciting, it can also be scary,” said team leader Nicolas Ayers. “I feel a lot of pressure to set the bar high. A lot of work has gone into creating this new undergraduate program and I feel a responsibility to show everyone what all their hard work has accomplished.”

The Senior Design Showcase will give Ayers and his teammates — Natalie Crutchfield, Andrea Molina Moreno and Devin Lyons — a chance to show of what they’ve accomplished over the past year. The team has collected data on the properties of bismuth-doped solder alloys, a less toxic version of the lead-based solder alloys used to join together metal parts in electronics.

“Because of the toxicity of lead there has been a recent push to use lead-free solders in electronic devices,” Ayers said. “Of the available lead-free solders, Tin-Silver-Copper (Sn-Ag-Cu or SAC) has been the most popular.”

SAC alloys aren’t the most reliable though. Ayers says that as our electronic devices become bigger and consumer more power, solder joints made with SAC alloys can experience significant thermo-mechanical stress. One solution to this problem is to add in bismuth, which can increase the strength and reliability to SAC alloys.

The data that the students collected on bismuth-doped solder alloys will be used by their sponsor, Juniper Networks, to run computer simulations that can predict the life expectancy of these materials.

The work that the team has done not only impacts their sponsor, but paves a path for future materials science and engineering students who participate in the Senior Design Showcase. MSE Professor and department chair Sudipta Seal said he’s proud of this group and of future teams to come.

“I’m very proud of our creative MSE undergraduates who utilize their materials knowledge and skills to design functional engineering products from space to microelectronics applications.”

As the first leader of the pioneering team, Ayers advises future MSE Senior Design teams to take advantage of the connections they’ve made with their professors as well as the resources and facilities made available to them.

“Also keep in mind that it is your project, you have a lot of control over the scope and direction of the project,” Ayers said. “Seize the opportunity to apply what you have learned in your undergrad and design something truly impressive.”

Written by Marisa Ramiccio