What is Gold Embrittlement and How to Solve It?

September 29, 2023

gold embrittlement


Gold over nickel is a common plating choice in the construction of many RF connectors. This is because it has ideal properties for RF: it is resistant to oxidation and has excellent electrical connectivity. By the same token, gold over nickel becomes less ideal when soldered to a PCB. This is because, during the soldering process, remnants of gold may be left behind in the solder joint which can cause weakness in the solder joint. 

gold embrittlement in solder joints

Gold Striations

Excess gold in a solder joint can create a gold-tin compound known as AuSn3. Under a microscope, this element displays as gold striations. Too many of these striations and the solder join become brittle and can even break under mechanical stress like the shock and vibration which are common in the flight conditions of so many of our applications. 

gold embrittlement of solder joints

For this reason, many of our customers, especially those with military applications, require the parts used in their next higher assembly to adhere to the J-STD-001 specification. The J-STD-001 specification requires there to be a minimal amount of gold, less than 3%, in the solder joints. 

gold solder embrittlement
SV Microwave has developed a proprietary, highly automated and highly repeatable process in-house that can strip the gold from the solder joint. The resulting product line, Pre-Tinned RF PCB Connectors, is completely optimized with gold removed from both the solderable area of the connector housing, as well as nearby areas which may be prone to capillary effect wicking. The de-golded solder joins is now less susceptible to gold embrittlement and the associated concerns in shock and vibration conditions. 

what is gold embrittlement

SV Microwave’s Pre-Tinned RF PCB Connectors come in a variety of configurations in SMP, SMPM and SMPS series. These include Smooth Bore and Full Detents, Straight and Right-Angle Contacts, with Legs, Thru-Hole, Edge Launch and Surface Mount. Even better, because SV is able to remove the gold from the solder joint of any of our connectors, we have the ability to create a custom part to satisfy any need. Email our team at [email protected] to learn more. 

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