Thermodynamic Reliability

Alec Feinberg
Dr. Alec Feinberg is the founder of DfRSoft. He has a Ph.D. in Physics and is the principal author of the book, Design for Reliability. Alec has provided reliability engineering services in all areas of reliability including solar, thin film power electronics, defense, microelectronics, aerospace, wireless electronics, and automotive electrical systems. He has provided training classes in Design more


There are a lot of interesting approaches for understanding the physics of device degradation. Reviewing the literature, one might note that thermodynamics seems underutilized for this area. You may wonder why we need another approach. The answer is in many cases you do not. However, sometimes systems are complex and made up of many components. How do we describe the aging of a complex system? Here is possibly where thermodynamics can be invaluable since it is mainly an energy approach. I introduced this science at RAMS and in my book Design for Reliability. In 2013 I was invited to write a chapter on this material in a book entitled, The Physics of Degradation in Engineering Devices and Machines. In so doing it has given me a chance to organize and make more complete the concept of tying reliability physics to thermodynamics. Here is some insight into why this science is important and what I will cover in this seminar. Thermodynamics is a natural candidate to use for understanding complex aging. For example, although most people who study thermodynamics are familiar with its second law, not many think of it as a good explanation of why a device degrades over time. We can manipulate a phrasing of the second law to clarify our point, that is: Thermodynamic Second Law in Terms of Device Degradation: The spontaneous irreversible degradation process that takes place in a device interacting with its environment, do so in order to go towards thermodynamic equilibrium with its environment. There are many phrasings of the second law. This phrasing describes aging, and we can use it as the Second Law of Thermodynamics in Terms of Device Degradation. When we state that the degradation is irreversible, we mean either non-repairable damage or that we cannot reverse the degradation without at the same time employing some new energetic process to do so. We see there is a strong parallel consequence of the second law associated with spontaneous degradation processes. The science presents us with a gift, for its second law actually explains the aging processes. Thus we are compelled in looking towards this science to help us in our study of device degradation. Currently the field of reliability physics includes a lot of thermodynamic type explanations. Yet, realistically the application of thermodynamics to the field of device degradation is in many ways not fully mature. Its first and second laws can be difficult to apply to complex aging problems. Yet, we anticipate that a thermodynamic approach to complex aging may be a very useful tool. If you are working on a space ship system, a submarine system, a circuit board, or possibly worried even about human aging, thermodynamic reliability may be a tool that we may look for unique ways to characterize and predict system degradation. Such systems are in an energetic state, how do we characterize this state, how can we sample and try to figure out if the energy of the state is degrading by losing its ability to perform useful work. How can we make degradation predictions for the system. Thermodynamics has tools which can help us make meaningful measurements to capture how the systems state changes with time. I will overview some ideas in this regard. In this seminar, the following concepts will be presented: � First & Second Laws of Thermodynamics in terms of device degradation � Entropy and free energy approach to understanding system reliability � Thermodynamic key aging equations � Signatures of Complex aging systems

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