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Electroplating Nickel-Boron Alloys

October 10, 2008

I am looking for information regarding the electroplating of Nickel-Boron alloys. I am interested in this for a microelectronics/photovoltaics application. Using a commercially available Ni bath (from Technic, I think) we have successfully plated Ni on top of a seed layer in our devices. Now I need to expand into plating Ni-Boron. I have found a couple literature procedures that call for using various boron additives with a Nickel Watts Bath. The specifics are: Watts bath plus sodium decahydridodecaborate (Na2 B10 H10) in "Metal Finishing, June 1996, pg. 100"; and Watts bath plus dimethylamine borane in "Materials Chemistry and Physics, 2006, 99(2-3), 300." There are also some procedures that use boron particles dispersed in the bath. Any suggestions regarding the operation of a Watts bath and/or boron-containing additives with respect to nickel electroplating would be very helpful.

Travis Benanti
Materials Scientist - State College, Pennsylvania, USA

First of two simultaneous responses -- October 10, 2008

I don't know about electroplating nickel-boron alloys but certainly they can be electroLESS plated. Why would you mind applying a voltage and deal with current distribution when you can just immerse the parts and let the chemistry do the job. How thick do you want to go?
G. Marrufo-Mexico

Guillermo Marrufo
Monterrey, NL, Mexico

Second of two simultaneous responses -- October 10, 2008

EN-B is an expensive process. I would recommend using one of the several vendors of the process and chose by support offered rather than price of a quality product. If you can get one tank turnover more from a proprietary EN vs a home brew EN it will come close to paying for the difference. In a home brew,if you run into a problem, you have to sort out how to permanently fix the problem yourself. Time that it will take will depend on skill, knowledge and luck. Is the lost time worth the savings in chemical cost.
The addition of boron particles is like the addition of synthetic diamonds to an EN tank. It is a picky process as it ages and requires tender loving care. The particles allow increased wear resistance, especially in hot environment.The encapsulated particles take the wear rather than the nickel.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

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