I had never heard of this before. Apparently, metal can grow odd-looking tendrils and "whiskers", which can cause electrical shorts and ruin electronics.

USC doctoral student unravels ‘tin whisker’ mystery

... NASA has verified multiple commercial satellite failures it attributes to tin whiskers. Missile systems, nuclear power stations and heart pacemakers also have fallen victim to tin whiskers over the past several decades and they are also considered a suspect in reported acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles.

While manufactures had been able to control some whiskers by mixing small amounts of lead into tin solder, the 2006 European Union ban on lead in most electronic equipment had ignited a debate among scientists about whether whiskers would remain a perpetual problem. Some observers even predict that it’s only a matter of time before miniature devices built after the ban start failing en masse. ...



Introducing a new member to the family: Gold Whiskers - a 2003 NASA article, with several interesting images.

NASA's metal whisker homepage

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djinncoyote

February 2017

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