Parylene Dielectric Properties: Designing for High Voltages

a picture of earth from a satellite with lines representing the internet

Mallory McGuinness | September 11, 2020

For decades, product designers have used conformal coatings, such as acrylics, silicones, Parylene, epoxies, and polyurethanes, to protect PCBAs from contaminants, moisture, and other common threats. Coatings used in electronic circuits fulfill critical functions, including environmental protection and electrical insulation, the latter allowing for a reduction in PCB conductor spacing.

If you are developing a product that incorporates electronics that needs to operate reliably, knowledge of conformal coating electrical properties and their exact values is necessary to optimize for the most reliable coatings for your application.

What Is Dielectric Strength? 

High dielectric strength is crucial to the function of a circuit board. It quantifies how strong a conformal coating’s insulation is, with a higher number signifying a higher resistance to dielectric breakdown. Essentially, the measurement calculates the maximum voltage the insulating material can withstand before it goes into a breakdown and loses its insulative properties. 

Maintaining dielectric resistance is critical for impedance and signal integrity concerns, as the insulating material must do its job to keep the circuit working correctly. For that reason, enhancing dielectric strength is key to maintaining a circuit board’s functional integrity and long-lasting operation.

Why Increasing Dielectric Strength Is Important 

Increasing dielectric strength offers several benefits for PCBs. First, enhancing dielectric strength protects the circuit board’s long-term function. The safety and effectiveness of a device with a circuit board relies on the device having an entirely closed system, so insulation with high dielectric resistance is critical.

Another consideration is that PCB designs can be more compact when they feature a coating with increased dielectric strength. In the demanding electronics industry, integrating more capability into smaller form factors is crucial to staying ahead of the curve.  

Conformal Coating Dielectric Strength

Coatings should be able to withstand an applied voltage without breakdown. At the breakdown voltage, the coating fails to provide the intended benefit. The insulative properties left (if any) are negligible at this point. Therefore, an essential electrical property is the dielectric strength, defined as the maximum voltage at or below which no breakdown occurs.

At both high and low voltages, dielectric considerations are particularly important for the reliability of electronic circuits.

Dielectric Constant and Dissipation Factor

In general, the higher the dielectric strength a coating can maintain throughout exposure to various environments and variables, the better. Said differently, ideal electrical insulating coatings have low dielectric constants and low dissipation factors, as well as the ability to retain these low values over a wide temperature and humidity range.

The Best Conformal Coating for Dielectric Strength

Parylene’s electrical properties make it the best conformal coating to protect against dielectric Strength. The figure below illustrates the breakdown voltage as a function of film thickness:

HZO PRO750 Parylene Coating Equipment
HZO PRO750 Parylene Coating Equipment

Coating Materials for Electronic Applications, James Licari

Parylene is Biocompatible and Can Stand up to Sterilization

Parylene is chemically inert and biologically stable, meaning it can survive exposure to chemicals found in the body without reactions. It is also non-toxic.

In a medical environment, medical instruments must remain free of contamination. Parylene can withstand sterilization by autoclave, E-beam, gamma-ray, and more, protecting against moisture, chemicals, and bodily fluids. Over the long-term, Parylene helps prevent premature device failure.

High Flexibility, Low Friction Protection

Parylene serves as a dry lubricant and facilitates its intended purpose and medical procedure. This property is essential for medical devices, where more friction may mean a more complicated, lengthier procedure. With Parylene coatings, discoloration and contamination can be reduced on a variety of medical products.

Dielectric considerations are particularly important for the reliability of electronic circuits.

As you can see, each Parylene type has different dielectric properties, so there is a suitable Parylene for virtually any application. Additionally, the insulating properties of the Parylene coating increase with thickness, creating the possibility to fine-tune electricity-blocking properties.

Better Dielectrics Come from Better Processes

As a general rule, a polymer’s dielectric strength decreases as impurities or imperfections in the coating increase. Clean, dry coatings may exhibit high insulation resistances but have inadequate dielectric breakdown voltages because of pinholes or voids.

For this reason, chemical vapor deposition (CVD) lends itself to the excellent electrical properties of Parylene. With the CVD process, the dimer is heated into a vapor that deposits deep into the crevices of printed circuit board assemblies, providing consistent, even 3D coverage free of pinholes and imperfections.

Since every surface on a product is coated with uniform thickness, Parylene is an excellent choice you can use to supplement other forms of insulation.

Our Conformal Coatings Improve Dielectric Strength 

If you’re looking for solutions to protect your project’s PCBs, HZO has an innovative approach to providing greater reliability for your product. HZO’s process of applying Parylene creates superior dielectric strength in the coating. Produced by chemical vapor deposition, Parylene conformal coatings come in several different types, so there’s an option to fit virtually any application. This material delivers flexibility, high dielectric strength, and thorough protection for components, making it ideal for circuit board applications.

We most commonly use Parylene for protecting the complex internal components of a circuit board. Parylene deposits onto the application surface molecule by molecule, creating a comprehensive protective coating for your PCBs. We apply Parylene with a uniform coating thickness so that you can use it as a supplement to other forms of insulation. 

Learn More About our Parylene Coatings

To learn more or talk to one of our experts about how to design a better product, contact us today. Making a small investment of your time now could yield decades of reliability.

There is a suitable Parylene for virtually any application.

Mallory McGuinness

Mallory is an electronics protection evangelist who writes content for HZO. In her free time she is reading non-fiction, and hanging out with her beta fish, King Awesome.

Ryan Moore

Ryan is a 9-year veteran to the world of protecting electronics from harsh environments and a lover of all things technology.

Discover how HZO can protect your product