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Ruthenium and tungsten as contact materials in hermetically plastic sealed telecom- and signal-relays

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1 Author(s)
W. Johler ; Tyco Electron. AXICOM, Au-Waedenswil, Switzerland

Palladium is the most frequently used contact material for telecommunication and signal relays. Good contact resistance stability and material transfer characteristics make it the most often used. The strong variation of the palladium price in recent years has made it necessary to look for alternatives. The development of gas-tight plastic sealed relay housings, which keep the gas filling inside the relay for a long time, e.g., more than 10 years for nitrogen and more than 100 years for sulfur-hexafluoride, allows nonprecious metal contact materials to be used, as an inert atmosphere can be kept for the entire life of the relay. Tests were performed with gold covered tungsten and ruthenium contacts mounted in a standard telecom relay filled with N2 or SF6. Although the contact resistance was always measured with dry circuit conditions applied, no relevant increase was observed during all electrical endurance tests. The ruthenium as well as the tungsten layer with a thickness of only 5 μm withstood endurance tests at maximum loads at 30 W. As only minimum contact erosion and material transfer occurred, no contact sticking or bridging was observed. Overall the switching performance of tungsten and ruthenium is similar to PdRu10. As PdRu10 has superior performance especially when operating in an SF6 atmosphere, the properties of Ru and W in N2 as well as in SF6 are at least comparable with all contact materials in current use. Gas-tight plastic sealed relay housings offer the advantages of hermetically sealed housings at an affordable cost.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Components and Packaging Technologies  (Volume:27 ,  Issue: 1 )