Dataguardian™ – The data centre zinc whisker cure

Dataguardian™ is a unique conformal coating designed as the permanent data centre zinc whisker cure. It can be applied to new or old zinc (galvanised steel) surfaces and will both encapsulate existing zinc whiskers and stop new ones from being released.

How does Dataguardian™ work?

Dataguardian™ works by encapsulating zinc whiskers onto the galvanised steel surfaces and thus stopping them from being released into the environment. As zinc whiskers only represent a threat to the data centre once they break free from the zinc plated surfaces and enter the airflow, this encapsulation renders them harmless.

The Dataguardian™ coating captivates the zinc whiskers under the coating. This applies to all whiskers, even if there is a large “swarm” of them. The coating can not be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The coating achieves this through a combination of design characteristics:

  • The Dataguardian™ coating has sufficient strength to resist puncture by the zinc whiskers.
  • The Dataguardian™ coating exhibits a controlled release from the substrate (the galvanised steel surface) which allows it to form a containment bubble around the whisker or whiskers.
  • The Dataguardian™ coating forms an elastic film, capable of deformation to form bubbles that contain the whiskers.

The Dataguardian™ coatings physical properties described above, when combined with the mathematical equations of state of a point stressed elastomer film and the Euler buckling equations that will determine the point of collapse of the whisker, ensure that the zinc whiskers are completely encapsulated.

The process by which whiskers are encapsulated is illustrated by the following figure:


Whisker encapsulation mechanism by Dataguardian conformal coating

Physical whiskers encapsulated by this mechanism can be seen in a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image in the paper describing the development of the Whisker-Tough™ Tin Whisker coating. That paper is reproduced in full here.

High magnification Optical photographs showing this process are shown below:

whisker encapsulation peelback of conformal coating

High magnification optical view of the Whisker-Tough conformal coating peel-back during tin whisker growth prior to whisker collapse

whisker encapsulation buckling under conformal coating
High magnification optical view of tin whiskers showing buckled whiskers under the Whisker-Tough conformal coating

Easy Permanent Data Centre Zinc Whisker Cure

A single coat of Dataguardian™ applied to galvanised steel surfaces produces a 0.05 mm (2 mil) thick dry film coating on both horizontal and vertical surfaces. This 0.05 mm coating is sufficient to encapsulate over 99.9% of whiskers. All whiskers up to a diameter of 3 microns will be completely encapsulated.

Dataguardian™ is a 2 part product. It is supplied as a base and a small amount of activator. Prior to use the activator is tipped into the base and shaken to mix thoroughly by the painter. The use of small containers for packaging ensures minimal waste and easy mixing by the operator without requiring any specialised equipment. once mixed the product has a pot life of 48 hours. The shelf life of the unmixed product is years.

It is a waterborne product, applied exactly like an emulsion paint by brush, spray or roller. This coating is typically applied during a routine cleaning operation, minimising disruption to services. Drying time depends on ambient humidity but is typically a few hours. The Dataguardian™ coating will develop full mechanical properties, allowing it to captivate zinc whiskers, about a week after application. As with emulsion paint, brushes and materials are cleaned in water after use.

Dataguardian™ is not ablative, it will not shed particles or weather away under airflow like conventional emulsion paints. This means that it will not release any new contaminants into your data centre but will just control your zinc whiskers.

Dataguardian™ has a naturally tacky surface once dry which tends to acquire airborne zinc whiskers. This offers enhanced protection in instances where it has not been possible to obtain 100% coverage of galvanised surfaces in the Data Centre.

MSDS sheets are available on request, please contact us to ask.

Data Centre Zinc Whisker Prevention

Dataguardian™ can be applied to new galvanised steel surfaces in order to prevent zinc whiskers from ever becoming a problem. This application can be done by either the customer or the manufacturer. Suitable candidates for treatment include but are not limited to:

  • Equipment housings, for computers, routers or indeed anything electrical or likely to be fitted to a data centre
  • The floor tiles and support structures for raised flooring
  • The equipment racks themselves
  • The BZP finished nuts and bolts used to hold everything together

How do I get Dataguardian™

To apply for a free 100ml sample of Dataguardian™ or to obtain a price for your specific requirements, please contact us.