Perlan School Experiment: Tin Whiskers
From the Teachers In Space Second Quarter 2016 Newsletter
By Aditya A.& Nicolas M. 8th Grade Students
What do you think of when you hear the phrase tin whiskers?
At first you may think that they have something to do with cats, but they are actually metal filaments that form or ‘grow’ off of metal solders. Metal whiskers are not widely known, but they can cause some major problems. They are very important to electronic part manufacturers because tin whiskers can cause short circuits that may possibly result in electrical failures.
Our middle school, CREC’sAcademy of Aerospace and Engineering in Windsor, CT, USA, designed an experiment that investigates the detachment of tin whiskers due to flight induced stresses. The detachment of tin whiskers in flight has never been studied before and is crucial to preventing short circuiting in future electronics. It took several months to design and build this experiment. It will fly in August of 2016, on the Perlan 2 Glider in El Calafate in Patagonia, Argentina, which has the perfect conditions to attempt to break the world record for highest altitude in unpowered aircraft.
As mentioned above, these tin whiskers are not widely known, so we were fortunate to get help from NASA Goddard Tin Whiskers Investigation Team. They were able to send us much needed advice, materials, and insight.