Circa 2002 the tin whiskers shown below caused a field failure
an electronic system that is used in the "electric power
utility" industry. The system was originally put into field service circa
This "actual" failure is considered to be significant because it
took ~ 20 YEARS before the whiskers grew in such a manner as
to create a short. Previous published literature has given the
impression that the tin whisker growth process may occur within a maximum of 8
to 10 years (typically much shorter). Unfortunately, the information
provided about this event is not sufficient to know if
a) the whisker growth remained dormant for a very long time, or
b) the growth process was continuous and slow for the entire period.
This type of failure is of particular importance to applications
that require very long term reliability and for which field servicing may
be impractical or impossible (space missions included). The lack of
accepted "accelerated" test methods for judging whisker
propensity is a further complication.
See below for more FACTS about this failure.