What Really Kills Electronics, Water or Corrosion?

circuit boards splashed with water

February 5, 2021

Device failure. It happens to people every day. You may drop your phone in water, but it doesn’t necessarily stop working–at least not immediately. A common reaction (aside from wailing and gnashing of teeth) is to remove the battery, stick the phone in rice, and wait impatiently for it to dry out. As many of you may have experienced, this doesn’t always work.

What people don’t know is that in most cases simply drying your phone out is not a solution because water ingress isn’t the real problem. It’s corrosion.

View a webinar about proven corrosion resistant methods delivered by Dr. Sean Clancy, Director of Coating Technology at HZO & Anti-Corrosion Expert

Why Do Electronics Break in Water? – Corrosion

The inside of every device has traces (wired connections between your device’s components) made of copper, which carry the electrical currents that power your phones, tablets, smart watches or other devices. When you expose those electronics to a liquid with electrolytes, it starts an instant flow of electricity between the traces. This wears down the original traces or creates new traces that shouldn’t exist. The wear down is the pull off of copper oxide, which you see in the form of green build up, similar to what you might find on a car battery connection.

The 2 Main Types of Corrosion That Cause a Device to Fail

  1. Galvanic Corrosion: This is where the electrolytes in a liquid pull off enough copper oxide to break a trace and stop feeding electricity to the right locations
  2. Dendritic Corrosion: This form of corrosion occurs between two traces, pulling the copper out of one trace and creating an entirely new one.

Dendritic corrosion is more complex in nature than galvanic as the reaction itself is actually capable of rerouting a connection. Since a newly formed connection no longer pulls from the right trace source, a device stops working altogether or certain functionality is lost. This is often the case in battery failure.

You may have experienced this type of deterioration if you’ve got your device wet. While it doesn’t fail instantly after exposure, over time the battery slowly loses charging capability. Eventually, it will die completely as the device will not being able to pull enough power from the new trace.

PCB suffering from corrosion

Luckily, all of this can be avoided if your product is waterproof or corrosion-resistant.

Learn More About Corrosion Protection

Electronic corrosion protection can completely protect your device’s fragile circuitry while still allowing it to perform.

That’s the beauty and power of HZO Protection. Our organic coating is a pinhole-free barrier that offers complete water and protection. HZO’s team of engineers are one click away from helping you create a waterproof and corrosion-proof product. Help your customers eliminate the stress of device failure by stopping it before it starts. Click here to start the conversation.

Ryan MooreRyan Moore

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

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