CIQTEK Scanning Electron Microscope for MLCC Applications
Updated 2023-10-18

Ceramic capacitors, as a kind of basic passive components, are an indispensable member of the modern electronic industry. Among them, chip multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCC) occupy more than 90% of the ceramic capacitor market due to their characteristics of high temperature resistance, high voltage resistance, small size, and wide range of capacitance, and are widely used in the consumer electronics industry, including home appliances, communications, automotive electronics, new energy, industrial control, and other application areas.


The use of CIQTEK SEM can assist in completing the failure analysis of MLCC, finding the origin of failure through micro-morphology, optimizing the production process, and achieving the goal of high product reliability.


Application of CIQTEK SEM in MLCC


MLCC consists of three parts: inner electrode, ceramic dielectric and end electrode. With the continuous updating of the market demand of electronic products, MLCC product technology also presents the development trend of high capacity, high frequency, high temperature and high voltage resistance, high reliability and miniaturization. Miniaturization means the need to use smaller-sized, more uniform ceramic powders. The microstructure of the material determines the final performance, and the use of scanning electron microscope to characterize the microstructure of ceramic powders, including particle morphology, particle size uniformity, and grain size, can help in the continuous improvement of the preparation process.



 Scanning electron microscope imaging of different types of barium titanate ceramic powders /25kV/ETD


Scanning Electron Microscope Imaging Different types of barium titanate ceramic powders /1kV/Inlens


High reliability means that a deeper understanding of the failure mechanism is required, and therefore failure analysis is indispensable. The root cause of MLCC failure is the presence of various microscopic defects, such as cracks, holes, delamination, etc., either externally or internally. These defects will directly affect the electrical performance and reliability of MLCC products, and bring serious hidden danger to product quality. The use of scanning electron microscope can assist in completing the failure analysis of capacitor products, find the origin of the failure through the microscopic morphology, optimize the production process, and ultimately achieve the goal of high reliability of the product.


MLCC's internal is a multi-layer structure, each layer of ceramics whether there are defects, multi-layer ceramics thickness is uniform, whether the electrodes are covered uniformly, all of these will affect the life of the device. When using SEM to observe the internal multilayer structure of MLCC or to analyze their internal failures, it is often necessary to perform a series of pre-treatments on the samples before they can be tested. These include resin embedding, mechanical grinding, conductive treatment by a coater, etc. Further finishing treatment can also be done using an ion mill. The figure below shows the microscopic morphology of the internal cross-section of the MLCC taken with a CIQTEK tungsten filament SEM3200. As seen in the figure, delamination of the ceramic dielectric layer may be the cause of device failure. 



MLCC Section/15kV/BSED



MLCC Section/20kV/BSED


In recent years, the demand for MLCC has seen a new round of growth with the booming development of consumer electronics, communication equipment and automotive industries. The use of CIQTEK SEM to characterize the relevant morphology and compositional homogeneity of MLCC will help MLCC manufacturers to sustain the development of high reliability.