All Those Electronic Chemicals



A lighthearted look at those modern wonder chemicals that pamper our electronic gear.

ANY list will include more than fifty assorted chemicals used by the electronics industry, the TV technician, the lab engineer, or the experimenter. They make his work easier, smoother, cleaner, brighter, stickier, duller, scratch-proof, more oily or free from oil or rust or flux or glue or-it goes on forever.

We now have chemicals to get us into and out of just about any mess we might imagine. The secret, of course, is knowing which chemicals to use for what mess. The parts-supply houses offer page after page of these chemicals with others available on special request from both these houses and other companies. Methods of dispensing chemicals range from the old-fashioned tube and bottle to misty, sometimes drippy sprays, to the little lab where you are required to mix the final brew yourself such as with some of the epoxy-resin cements. One company even allows you to mix the chemicals in a tube.

Our electronic systems are the most squeezed at, brushed on, rubbed in, sprayed over, and embedded around the world. It is a frustrating, confusing chemical world at best. The sophisticated user of today's electronic chemicals never considers putting something on his circuit without something else close at hand to just as quickly remove the same stuff.

Paints, for example, in old-fashioned cans and used with a brush are still available but these are losing popularity to the aerosol spray enamels, crackle finishes, and a whole slew of others too numerous to mention. Just press a button and beautiful colors appear to decorate any surface.

Among the most fascinating of the chemicals are the specials. One in this category is General Cement's "Zero Mist," which is sprayed on the warm operating electronic circuit.

The mist cools the component, thus locating circuit malfunctions quickly. It can isolate cold-solder joints, oxidized junctions, and open components such as resistors. You can spray on blackboard surfaces, dulling coatings or mirror surfaces, lubricating oils and compounds, or in another container find a non-slip aerosol coating. There are chemicals to prevent corona and electrical noise in carbon controls, to put out fires, and to frost your cocktail glasses or your window glass as the need develops.

There are unique cleaners that have been developed in an attempt to match the chemical to the special need.

There are motor cleaners, tuner cleaners, non-detuning cleaners, lubricating cleaners, non-lubricating cleaners, and wiping-contact cleaners. You can also find rust and degrease cleaners and, last but never least, there is a hand cleaner to wash away residue of all those other cleaners from your hands.

Burstein Applebee offers a "Super Frost Test" for thermal intermittent components similar to Zero Mist. B.A. states that it can also be used to cool martini glasses for a party. So, you see, the chemical guys aren't really all establishment. There is a scratch-removing compound that is claimed to remove cigarette burns as well as many other genre of scratches from polished plastic surfaces. So, no matter what your thing--drink or smoke--the chemical guys are in there pitching.

We now have a tool dip that gives any of your tool handles a bright, tough, insulating plastic coating that resists acids, alkalies, and petroleum derivatives such as gasoline.

Sealant cements are available that have a lifetime of ten years or more. General Electric's "Silicone Seal," for example, remains pliable for years and will bond to such tricky surfaces as ceramics, fabrics, glass, and masonry.

Spray-on techniques have even progressed to power sprays. Allied Radio now offers a "Jet-Pak" spray outfit that is powered by a gas cartridge and enables you to spray any liquid that is fluid enough to pass through the spray's nozzle. I wonder how a very dry martini would go down if it were sprayed one swallow at a time into the recipient's mouth? Seems that martinis might take on the acceptable aura of a mouth spray and could then be enjoyed even en route to work if that's your way.

It is at this point that the toughest job of all confronts us as we attempt to match the proper chemical to the electronic component with an eye to what we can expect the chemical to do for us. This isn't as easy as it sounds, considering that certain solvents we might pick will, say, dissolve plastics (acetone dissolves most commercial plastics) and other parts of valuable components. Certain other paints will never dry under some conditions, leaving the surface a gooey mess. Many of the modern electro-chemicals must be used with adequate ventilation to avoid inhaling poisonous fumes.

There are times when the judicious use of chemicals will make an inexpensive component perform like one of the best. There is the inexpensive switch whose contacts can be immersed in a silicone lubricant. This acts as a contact cleaner as well as preventing further corrosive effects.

Thus, by the use of chemicals, you have greatly improved the reliability of the switch as well as its useful life span.

The future of spray chemicals is indeed bright. Someday, possibly, you'll be able to spray a circuit to your own exact specifications using a series of templates and a proper collection of aerosol cans filled with such goodies as sprays for 5-watt resistors, 0.05-µF capacitors, 20-mil copper wiring, fuse wiring, and on and on.

Also see: Spray Chemicals for Servicing / Q & A on Sprays

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