Zinc whiskers are microscopic shards of zinc that develop on galvanized metal surfaces over time. They can be a devastating problem, particularly in data centers where they frequently grow on the underside of floor panels. If your company operates a data center, it’s important to understand what to watch for and how you can combat zinc whiskers.
How Do Zinc Whiskers Grow?
Tiny whiskers, just 1 or 2 microns in diameter, begin to form due to the stress of the equipment being supported, which is why raised floor panels are so susceptible to this problem. Over time these whiskers may grow to be several millimeters long. Once they break off and are circulated through the air, they may find their way into nearby electronic equipment, which can cause a variety of serious problems.
Symptoms of Zinc Whiskers
Zinc whiskers are responsible for several problems in data centers. Some of these issues include:
- Increased problems after moving equipment
- Increased problems after working underfloor
- Unexplained data corruption
- Unexplained hardware problems
These whiskers may be vaporized as they move through your equipment and cause damage, making this a very difficult problem to diagnose. Additionally, they can be so small that common dust filters are ineffective at keeping them out.
How to Prevent Zinc Whiskers
This problem is distinct from other metal-based issues, like rust, since zinc whiskers can grow in any environment, regardless of temperature, moisture, or airflow. Zinc whiskers can be cleaned and removed from your floor panels, but this will not prevent more from forming. Because of this, you’ll need to clean regularly. In order to permanently eradicate zinc whiskers, any zinc-electroplated surfaces (like raised floor panels) will need to be replaced.
At Jerry L. Johnson & Associates, our team specializes in data centers – constructing, renovating, and everything in between. If your data center has an issue with zinc whiskers, we can help you treat and eradicate the problem.