Zinc whiskers are small, hair-like filaments of zinc that grow from certain zinc-coated metal surfaces including electrical components and mechanical hardware (such as nuts, bolts, washers, equipment racks, housings and rails) or from zinc-plated underside of the raised-access floor tiles and the support structures commonly used in computer data centers. Once formed, the whiskers can pass into the electronic hardware through vents and fans on the equipment. When inside the equipment, zinc whiskers can cause various electrical failures, ranging from intermittent to permanent short circuits.
When a zinc whiskers attack is suspected, the best option for confirmation is sampling the surfaces with wipes or forensic tape lifts and sending them for analysis by light and electron microscopy.
The figure below presents SEM image of zinc whiskers collected on tape lift.