15 Aug How Static Electricity Can Affect Your Business’s Electronics
Static electricity isn’t a new issue. In fact, it’s been a known phenomenon since the dawn of time. However, those little shocks you get from time to time have only recently become a real issue, thanks to the rise of solid-state electronics.
Now, we all know static electricity (or electrostatic discharges (ESD)) feels like for humans, but what effect do these tiny electrical charges have on your businesses electronics? Join us as we explain.
What are the sources of ESD?
All materials can be sources of ESD, and are lumped together in what is known as the triboelectric series, which defines materials associated with a positive or negative charge.
Positive charges accumulate largely on human skin and on animal furs. Negative charges, on the other hand, are more common to synthetic materials like plastic cups, Styrofoam and other materials.
The amount of static charge which can build up on any item is down to the capacity of the object to store a share. A human body, for example, can store a charge equal to 250 picofarads. This correlates into a stored charge that can be as high as 2500-volts.
One of the most common causes of electrostatic discharges is through the human body coming in to contact with sensitive devices. However, because human touch is only sensitive to ESD levels which exceed 4,000-volts, many of the discharges that we output go completely unnoticed by us.
How does ESD damage electronics?
The main component affected by static electricity and electrostatic discharges are semiconductors, which include diodes, microchips, transistors and more. When a charge is passed through these objects, it seeks a low impedance path to ground. Often, this is through the chip itself, which causes the current flow to burn holes in an integrated circuit.
Over time, these holes and the damage related to them degrade the electronics internal components, causing failure and, potentially, costly replacement.
How can you avoid static electricity?
It’s almost impossible to entirely eliminate static charges entirely from your business, but there are things you can do to minimise the risk, including:
- Using static floor mats where possible, and treating carpets and floors with compounds to reduce the build-up of static charges.
- Cleaning printed circuit boards with a spray that’s labelled as non-static forming.
- Keep all synthetic materials at least 4” away from electronic equipment.
- When handling sensitive electronic equipment, wear a static wrist strap that’s grounded to the frame of the device.
- Ensure your grounding system for equipment has a low impedance for ESD currents to dissipate to an earthing reference.