Ion Chromatography Testing (IC Testing)

Ion Chromatography Testing provides cleanliness-related information, specifically individual ionic data values, for various types of samples, including, but not limited to, printed circuit boards, printed circuit assemblies, and soldering fluxes..

The use of Ion Chromatography (IC) within the printed circuit board / assembly industry has grown substantially over the past decade or so. As board / assembly circuitry has decreased in “size,” the cleanliness of said boards / assemblies has become increasingly more important, and IC provides a significant amount of useful information. Further, the end use of the product—consumer vs. military vs. aerospace vs. telecommunication vs. medical—can also impact the cleanliness “needed” due to the level of reliability required.

IC Testing Flux-Residue-Around-Component-Leads

For the testing itself, Ion Chromatography provides individual data values for the specific ionic species that have been selected for testing. This is in contrast to the more “traditional” cleanliness testing that has been performed in the past, in which a single “measure” of cleanliness is provided. Overall, to better suit the industry as a whole, Ion Chromatography testing has been adapted for use not only with printed circuit boards and assemblies but also for other related items, such as soldering fluxes, unit housings, electrical components, surface mount adhesives, etc.

Common Ion Chromatography Test Applications

Ion Chromatography allows for many unique capabilities in providing accurate qualitative and quantitative determinations relating to the material identifications of anions and cations. The targeted analytes refer to positively and negatively charged ions often formed in processes in which electrons are transferred between metal and non-metal materials. The ability to separate and detect trace ionic species, weak organic acids, silicates, carbohydrates, amino acids and other substances makes IC effective in a wide variety of test programs.

Common applications range from trace analysis to discover contamination in soil and water samples and drinking water to analyzing electrolyte and owner properties in electroplating bath processes. Ion Chromatography can also determine total halides from pyrohydrolysis extraction and allows for the purification of complex multimeric protein assemblies.


Industries Relying on Ion Chromatography Testing

Ion Chromatography is an advanced testing program that’s highly selective and capable of analyzing molecular species as opposed to focusing on present elements. It is utilized by a vast scope of industries due to its broad analytical properties. From clinical utilities to industrial applications, ion chromatography is effective in achieving the separation of ions and molecules of virtually any type.

Ion Chromatography is commonly employed for determining the purity of consumable products as well as environmental elements such as soil and water. It can also help accurately measure the quality of molecular materials and minerals. It’s used in industries ranging from healthcare, life science and pharmaceutical production to local and governmental environmental testing, commercial food and drink packaging and production, protein purification, power generation and quality control.

Test Methods

When evaluating samples with Ion Chromatography, the following established test methods are commonly and frequently used by the industry:

  • IPC-TM-650, method 2.3.28 – Ionic Analysis of Circuit Boards, Ion Chromatography Method
  • IPC-TM-650, method – Halide Content of Soldering Fluxes and Pastes
  • IPC-TM-650, method – Bare Printed Board Cleanliness by Ion Chromatography
  • MIL-STD-883, method 5011, section 3.5.4 – Evaluation and Acceptance Procedures for Polymeric Materials, Ionic Impurities

In addition to these established methods in which “whole” samples or materials are analyzed, Ion Chromatography testing is also commonly used to investigate “local” areas of interest on a specimen. When residue and/or foreign material is observed on a printed circuit board / assembly, “localized” extraction techniques can be used to obtain samples that can then be analyzed via IC.

Generally speaking, IC is used for the investigation of two (2) main analysis tracks—process control / characterization and failure analysis.

For process control / characterization, replicate samples taken from various steps in the assembly process are analyzed on a frequent basis to determine “baseline” values. These “baseline” values can then be used to judge process variation and control, while, when combined with reliability testing, can also be used to potentially determine cleanliness limits and/or requirements for future testing.

Ion Chromatography Testing and Failure Analysis

For failure analysis, Ion Chromatography testing can be performed when the failure mode of a product is believed to potentially be related to the undesired presence of ionic material. Typically, this ionic material would be causing some type of high resistance “short” between areas that should be electrically isolated. The testing itself could be performed on bare printed circuit boards, fully populated printed circuit assemblies or anywhere in between. Further, both “full” and “localized” extraction techniques can be utilized. In the end, the ionic information obtained can be utilized in combination with the other failure analysis techniques performed to help isolate and identify the potential root cause of the problem at hand.

Test Methods & Standards

  • Alloy Composition: IPC/J-STD-001, IPC/J-STD-006
  • Bisphenol A Content: GCMS
  • Bonding: IPC-TM-650, Method
  • Chemical Resistance / Solder Resistance: ASTM D543, IPC-SM-840, IPC-4101, IPC-TM-650 Method 2.3.2,,
  • Cleanliness / Ionic Impurities: IPC-TM-650, Methods 2.3.25, 2.3.26, 2.3.28,, Delphi-Q-1000-119, Delphi-Q-1000-127
  • Composition: IPC/J-STD-004, IPC-TM-650, Method 2.6.15, 2.3.32
    Density/ Specific Gravity: ASTM D792, IPC-TM-650 Method 2.3.5
  • Flammability: UL94, ASTM D635, ASTM D2863, IPC-4101, IPC-SM-840, IPC-TM-650 Methods 2.3.8,, 2.3.9, 2.3.10,, 2.3.29
  • Hazardous Substance Analysis: RoHS/WEEE, CPSC, REACH
  • Heavy Metals/Lead Content: ASTM E1613, CPSC-CH-E1002-08.2, CPSC-CH-E1003-09.1, CPSC-CH-E1001-08.2
  • Ion Chromatography (IC): IPC-TM-650, Method 2.3.28,, Delphi-Q-1000-119, Delphi-Q-1000-127
  • Organotin Content: GCMS
  • pH: IPC-TM-650, Method 2.3.30
  • Phthalate Content: CPSC-CH-C1001-09.3
  • Porosity: ASTM B735, IPC-TM-650, Methods 2.3.24,,
  • Purity: IPC-TM-650, Method 2.3.15, IPC-6012, IPC-6013, MIL-PRF-31032
  • High Voltage Arc Tracking: UL746A
  • Resistivity of Solvent Extract (ROSE): IPC-TM-650, Method 2.3.25, IPC-6012, IPC-6013, IPC-6018, J-STD-001
  • Solderability: IPC/J-STD-002,IPC/ J-STD-003, IPC-SM-840
  • Tack / Slump / Wetting / Dryness / Spitting: IPC/J-STD-005, IPC-TM-650, Method 2.4.35, 2.4.44, 2.4.46, 2.4.47, 2.4.48
  • Viscosity: IPC-TM-650, Method 2.4.34 and

Contact NTS for Ion Chromatography Testing

We’re among the most innovative and reliable providers ofIon Chromatography Testing and certification services for product developers, manufacturers and environmental agencies. Get in touch with us for more information on our Ion Chromatography Testing programs and request your free quote today.

Updated September 23,, 2015