An electronic device’s electronic components can gradually degrade over time, as the devices are exposed to electromagnetic fields.
The results of a study published in the journal Nature Communications have shed new light on how that might happen.
Scientists say the effects are less pronounced in low-powered devices than in high-powered ones, but they can still affect the device.
“Electronics are so sensitive, they lose their charge in the middle of their operation,” says lead author Professor Andrew O’Shea, of the Australian National University in Canberra.
“Electronics can degrade in a way that is not visible, but in the case of a large-scale system, they can degrade at a much slower rate than that.”
The study involved examining the chemical makeup of an electronic component known as a capacitor.
Capacitors are made of a metal core and a semiconductor, which forms a conducting structure when a current flows through them.
As the current passes through, the metal core gets electrically charged and it can cause a reaction known as oxidation, where electrons become trapped within the metal.
An oxidation reaction also occurs in the metallic oxide of silicon.
As silicon becomes heated, it breaks down, releasing oxygen into the air.
Oxygen then condenses and forms a droplet of silicon dioxide.
It is a form of the chemical carbon dioxide, and is also responsible for the smell of car exhaust.
As the electrons from the silicon dioxide get trapped within that droplet, they begin to corrode it, causing it to degrade.
This causes the metal to lose its electrical charge and it begins to corrod.
The process can last for days, and can even lead to a complete breakdown of the capacitor.
When the corrosion starts to happen, it can degrade the electronic components that are connected to the capacitor, which can then begin to degrade over a long period of time.
In addition to being more dangerous than other kinds of corrosion, this process can also lead to more damage to the electronic parts, such as the battery.
A battery that’s corroded has a limited lifespan and is usually difficult to replace, which makes it an excellent candidate for degradation.
The researchers’ study also found that the degradation of the metal oxide that formed a droplets of silicon can also cause it to corrodd the electrode.
That could result in a loss of electrical charge that can lead to premature failure of the device, which would then have a large effect on its operation.
Professor O’Hera says this study shows that corrosion of electronic components is a common, serious, and very serious problem.
“This is a problem that is really only really going to get worse with our increasingly large and complex electronic systems,” he says.
He and his colleagues also found evidence that the metal-oxide oxidation of the electrolyte of a capacitor could cause its electronic components to degrade faster than other materials, which means that it could also degrade more rapidly than the capacitors themselves.
The researchers say that further research is needed to understand exactly what happens when an electronic part is exposed to low-level electromagnetic fields, which could lead to unexpected effects.
They have a number of other papers to publish on the topic, including one looking at how the degradation and subsequent damage of electronic parts may impact on human health.
Source: University of Canberra