Connectors and System-Level Interconnects: Degradation and Wear Mechanisms

In this research area, the effects of vibration and environment on the performance of automotive and other harsh environment connectors are being evaluated. The primary goals are to examine connector interconnection options for next generation extreme environment applications and to establish the reliability and failure mechanisms. A basic understanding of the causes of fretting corrosion is being established, and then utilized to develop strategies for the accelerated testing of connectors. In addition, the growth of tin whiskers is being studied on connector pins with lead free plating finishes. The ongoing tin whisker research includes both fundamental studies on the origin of whisker growth and experimental test matrices to examine next generation connector designs. Deliverables from our Connector Reliability research include design guidelines, modeling tools, reliability data, and processing recommendations.

connector reliability collage


Dr. George T. Flowers(Research Leader)


  • Investigate basic mechanisms of vibration-induced fretting corrosion
  • Investigate factors that influence tin whisker growth in lead free plating finishes for connector pins
  • Investigate failure mechanisms for pin connectors and high current/voltage connectors

Project Titles

  • P11-401 Effect of whisker growth on topside Ni thin films
  • P11-402 Sn whisker growth from sputtered Sn63/Pb73 films on brass
  • P11-403 Native SnOx growth on Sn Metal Surfaces
  • P11-404 A study of various material combinations on the bolted contacts of busbars
  • P11 -405 The influence of connector lubricants on shock-induced discontinuities in electrical connectors


  • Modeling of Vibration Damping in Microfibrous Material - P. Soobramaney (ME), G. Flowers (ME)
  • Sn Whisker Growth from Sputtered Sn63/Pb37 Film on Brass - E. Crandall (Physics), M. Bozack (Physics), P. Lall (ME), G. Flowers (ME)
  • P11-301: SnOx Growth on Sn Metal Surfaces - E. Crandall (Physics), M. Bozack (Physics), G. Flowers (ME)
  • Effect on Whisker Growth of Topside Ni Thin Films - E. Crandall(Physics), M. Bozack (Physics),  G. Flowers (ME)
  • A study of Various Material Combinations on the Bolted Contacts of Busbars - James Gatherer (ME), R. Jackson (ME), S. Choe (ME)