Researchers in the Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University are taking advantage of a movement to get the lead out. Senior metallurgist Iver Anderson says they’ve developed a solder that uses tin, silver and copper and has no lead. Anderson says getting rid of the lead in solder will do a lot to cut the toxicity of electronic waste.
Anderson says things like cellphones and computers become obsolete quickly and he says there’s a lot of concern that the lead in the electronic trash could eventually leak into the water supply. Anderson says countries in the European Union have already taken steps to get rid of lead with new rules that take effect in July. He says they’ve said that manufacturers that want to continue to use lead must track their items “from cradle to grave.” Anderson says no manufacturer wants to track items that way, so it effectively forces manufactures to eliminate lead to sell to the European Union.
Anderson says the solder developed at the Ames lab looks and works much like the traditional lead. He says it also produces a joint that’s stronger than the tin-lead mixture used now. Anderson says the stronger solder is important as electronic items like phones and laptops are often dropped. Anderson says the Ames Lab solder can also be modified with another element. He says that makes the solder joint last much longer under higher heat conditions, which he says are now generated by many electronic devices.
Anderson says there are competitors to the Ames Lab’s lead-free solder — but more than 60 companies worldwide have licenses to use it and have generated royalties in excess of $5 million. Part of those royalties goes to the inventors, while Anderson says much of the money goes to the ISU Research Foundation.