Zinc whiskers

The danger for datacenters: Zinc whiskers

What are Zinc Whiskers?

Zinc whiskers may sound harmless, but these ‘microscopic zinc shards’ can really do damage to server rooms or a data center. They can make their way to the inner parts of computers and other electronics. Zinc whiskers can cause short circuits and even uncontrolled system resets. But the most frustrating thing is that they are rarely traceable. In research, there are rarely found indications that indicate the real problem. This is because zinc whiskers usually evaporate due to the same short circuits they cause.

Where do they come from? 

Often a connection is made with rust or other forms of oxidation, but it has nothing to do with corrosion. Zinc whiskers “grow” on steel surfaces that are galvanized with zinc to prevent rust. Although the zinc layer is an excellent means to prevent corrosion, it has a lot of compressive strength and tends to reduce that pressure by stretching. It forms the zinc whiskers.

Because these particles have nothing to do with rust, it is logical that, in contrast to rust, which is greatly helped by things like moisture and oxygen, zinc whiskers generally form regardless of the environmental conditions. It makes no difference whether the HD wire channel is located in a cool, controlled environment or in a humid warm room, sooner or later there will be zinc whiskers.


How do the problems with Zinc Whiskers start? 

Zinc whiskers only cause problems when they break off and float freely through the air. Therefore, the use of galvanized cable ducts is not recommended in this situation. Even the slightest contact can release them from the surface so that they can enter the air-conditioning system via the air and thus in sensitive computer equipment. Even if the electronics are equipped with dust filters, they can still penetrate – only HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are good enough to hold them back. Once inside, they can cause short circuits and diagnosing the cause of these defects is difficult to impossible. Also drivers and power supplies are very sensitive to this.

How can Zinc Whiskers be prevented? 

The best way to prevent zinc whiskers from occurring is to use as little or no galvanized steel in the room as possible. A suitable solution in the form of EZ1000 coating obviously has a suitable solution for these situations.

If you would like more information about this, you can contact us via 0180-531120 or via info@conduct.nl.