Failure analysis is an investigation into the background or history of a sample or an event to determine why a particular failure or event occurred. This can involve analyzing the sample as it currently exists and extrapolating from that data what may have caused the failure.
- In the Materials Characterization division, physical failures are investigated (poor adhesion, pull strength, fractures, discoloration) using surface analysis and materials characterization tools.
- In the Microelectronics Test and Engineering division, electrical and electronic failures in electronic devices (i.e. in chips) are investigated using electrical characterization, defect isolation tools and microscopy.
The scenario and sample type impact which analytical technique can be used.
For adhesion and bonding failures, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), Time-of-flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (TOF-SIMS), and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) are important techniques that provide information about the molecular species present at the failure site. In some instances, the presence of molecular contaminants at delaminated surfaces can indicate poor contact between the bonded surfaces. Imaging delaminated surfaces can also indicate the failure mechanism (e.g. cohesive or adhesive).
Other failure analysis scenarios may involve analyzing unknown materials or investigating the unexpected appearance of materials on a surface.
Analytical Techniques of Interest