To read this content please select one of the options below:

Obtaining the moisture content of printed circuit boards from capacitance measurements

Owen Thomas (National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, UK)
Martin Wickham (National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, UK)
Chris Hunt (National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, UK)

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 11 May 2012




The purpose of this paper is to present work on the incorporation of capacitors into printed circuit boards (PCB) as a method to measure moisture content and follow moisture diffusion under ground planes.


PCBs were manufactured of FR‐4 incorporating different arrangements and sizes of capacitors formed between the tracks on adjacent layers of the PCB. The boards were placed in an 85°C and 85 per cent relative humidity (RH) environment to absorb moisture before baking at temperatures of 80, 110 or 125°C with the capacitance periodically measured. The effect of ground planes with different densities of plated and non‐plated through holes (PTH) has been studied by placing capacitors between ground planes.


Parallel plate capacitors embedded within a PCB showed a 10 per cent capacitance increase going from a dry state to being saturated with moisture in an 85°C and 85 per cent RH environment. The slow ingression of moisture under the capacitance planes meant that the measured capacitance change did not reflect the moisture content of the remainder of the board well. Capacitor plates with slots for the moisture to penetrate were also investigated, with the increase in capacitance found to show good correlation with the increase in board mass. In investigating moisture under ground planes, either by decreasing the hole density or by plating the holes, the time for moisture to diffuse out of the board was found to increase due to the lower exposed area on the PCB.


The paper illustrates a method that can be applied to PCB manufacturing to assess the moisture content of a board prior to reflow.



Thomas, O., Wickham, M. and Hunt, C. (2012), "Obtaining the moisture content of printed circuit boards from capacitance measurements", Circuit World, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 68-74.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles