Glass Transition Temperature

Another common misconception (at least with adhesive materials) is the concept of Tg (glass transition temperature). Most of the adhesives used in the electronics industry are thermosetting materials. As such they do not “melt” but have two physical properties that are related. The Tg which is the temperature at which the material softens and the decomposition temperature – the temperature at which the material breaks down. Materials can “function” above their Tg, but their physical properties will be altered. For example, silicone materials (such as bathroom caulk, or conformal coatings) often have Tgs that are below room temperature. Yet they still adhere, protect from the atmosphere (moisture), etc. Since most adhesives used in electronics (FR-4, underfill, SMA) are epoxies, it is useful to understand how these materials are affected above the Tg. The most significant effect on epoxies is that the CTE increases significantly (typically 2-3 times). That doesn’t necessarily mean that a device encapsulated/underfilled/coated with one of these materials will fail. There are other physical properties that come into play as well (especially when it comes to reliability) such as modulus, and adhesion. The best way to confirm that a material is suitable for the application is to test it using known established test methods.

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About Brian

Brian J. Toleno, Ph.D. is the Application Engineering Team Leader with Henkel in Irvine, California. He holds a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Penn State University and a B.S. in chemistry from Ursinus College. Prior to joining Henkel, Toleno managed the failure analysis laboratory at the Electronics Manufacturing Productivity Facility (EMPF). He is an active member of SMTA, served as the Program Chair for the 2005 IEMT and is active within the IPC, serving as the underfill handbook committee (J-STD-030) chairperson and co-chair of the Solder Paste Standards Committee (J-STD-005). Toleno has written a course on failure analysis for SMTA, has authored numerous publications for trade journals and peer reviewed publications, and written two chapters for electronic engineering handbooks on adhesives and materials.

7 thoughts on “Glass Transition Temperature

  1. you talk about the CTE with epoxies and how it changes drastically, but is that above or below Tg?

  2. The CTE is different for thermoplastic material (like
    epoxies) above and below Tg. 
    These two values are commonly referred to as alpha 1 (a1) and alpha 2 (a2).  Alpha 1 is the CTE below Tg and alpha 2 is the CTE above
    Tg.  If you only see one CTE
    listed for a material on a TDS it is most commonly the alpha 1 Tg.  (Unless the Tg is below room
    temp, as is the case for silicones). 
    The CTE value can increase by 2 or 3 times. In conjunction with this is
    also the fact that the modulus decreases – the material becomes softer.  So even though it expands more, it is softer
    and can deform more easily.

  3. We’ve had fallout using an epoxy material with higher Tg (48 compared to the 30 of the material being proposed) – cracked capacitor. They’re both epoxies, and I’m wondering two things: 1. What other parameters should I compare to predict if this new eopxy will work, and 2. what testing will verify the new material. I’m aware of thermal shock/thermal cycling, but is there any other testing you would recommend? Thanks.

  4. Tony,
    Are you seeing a cracked cap that is mounted on an FR4/epoxy board? If that is the case, then you need to look at the Z-axis CTE. The board could be expanding and pushing into the cap and cracking it. The best way to test this is to do thermal cycling and/or shock to determine if the expansion will crack the device in question.

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