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A batch of bimetal foil/epoxy laminates was rejected because of poor peel strength. The laminates were manufactured by sintering a nickel/phosphorus powder layer to a copper foil, cleaning, then chromate conversion coating the nickel-phosphorus surface, and laminating the nickel-phosphorus side of the clad bimetal onto an epoxy film, so that the end product contained nickel-phosphorus sandwiched between copper and epoxy, with a chromate conversion layer on the epoxy side of the nickel-phosphorus. Peel testing showed abnormally low adhesion strength for the bad batch of peel test samples. Comparison with normal-strength samples using XPS indicated an 8.8% Na concentration on the surface of the bad sample; the good example contained less than 1% Na on the surface. After 15 min of argon ion etching, depth profiling showed high concentrations of sodium were still evident, indicating that the sodium was present before the chromate conversion treatment was performed. A review of the manufacturing procedures showed that sodium hydroxide was used as a cleaning agent before the chromate conversion coating. Failure cause was that apparently the sodium hydroxide had not been properly removed during water rinsing. Thus, recommendation was to modify that stage in the processing.

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Adhesion Failures Caused by Thin-Film Contaminants, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Processing Errors and Defects, ASM International, 2019,

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