Everyone who works with electronics has heard about electrostatic discharge. Some people know a little more about it, some a little less. But almost nobody knows everything about ESD that they need to keep themselves and their coworkers safe. In this blog post, we’ll demystify ESD and give you the information you need to know about it.
What is an electrostatic discharge (ESD)?
When you walk across a carpeted floor and then touch a doorknob, you’ve just experienced an electrostatic discharge. ESD is simply the movement of electrons from one object to another. In your case, the electrons left your body and went to the doorknob.
So, we can define ESD as an electrostatic discharge is the movement of electrons from one object to another.
What are the causes of ESD?
There are three ways that ESD can happen:
This is the most common way we experience ESD. When you walk across your carpeted floor and touch a doorknob, your body is losing electrons to the doorknob. This leaves you with a positive charge and the doorknob with a negative charge (because it gained electrons). The opposite charges attract each other, so you get zapped when you touch the doorknob.
This happens when something that has been in contact with an item or surface that has a charge on it comes into contact with something else.
For example, if you pick up an item off of a table and then touch something else, your body will lose electrons to that thing through what’s called turbocharging.
Tribocharging can also happen if you touch an object that has been in contact with another object. For example, if you walk across the carpet and touch a doorknob, and then touch something else, your body will lose electrons to that thing through tribocharging.
This is the least common way we experience ESD. It happens when air is ionized by a strong electric field. If you touch two conductive objects at the same time (like two door knobs) while there’s a strong electric field around them, you can be zapped even if neither of the objects touched your skin.
How can I protect myself from ESD?
You need to take steps to protect yourself from ESD to avoid damage to your electronics and yourself. Here are some steps you can take:
- Make sure that all of your electronics are properly grounded. Some devices have three-prong power cords, but if they don’t, you can plug them into a power strip with a three-prong plug. Your computer and monitor also need to be grounded. If you have an older computer, it probably has a three-pronged plug, but if you don’t use the third prong for grounding, then make sure that your power strip is grounded.
- Use static guards. These are devices that create an electric field between two points to help prevent the buildup of static electricity in the air. They work by dissipating the charge before it can build up enough to cause damage to your devices or yourself.
- Avoid touching conductive materials while they’re plugged into an outlet. This is important because even if you aren’t grounded yourself (for example, if you’re wearing rubber shoes), your body can act like a conductor when it comes into contact with an object that is connected to the ground (like a doorknob).
- Avoid touching anything metal while it’s plugged in. Metal conducts electricity and if you touch it, you could end up with an electrical shock.
- Avoid using metal objects as grounding conductors. This is a general rule for all electronic devices but is especially important for power strips. If you have an extension cord that has a three-pronged plug on the end of it, make sure that you unplug it before plugging something into the outlet on the other end of the cord.
- Use grounded power strips. These devices are typically rated to handle 15,000 volts or more and will protect your electronics from damage caused by electrical surges.
- Use high-quality extension cords. Make sure that the extension cord has a grounded three-prong plug on one end and an AC power outlet on the other end (no matter what kind of outlet it is). If your extension cord doesn’t say “grounded” on it, don’t use it.
- Use surge protectors with your electronics. The easiest way to tell if you need a surge protector is to look at the label on the device. If it says “surge protected” or “surge protected outlet,” then you need one.
If ESD damages your device:
- Unplug the device and leave it unplugged for at least a few minutes.
- Disconnect any cords or cables connected to the device.
- If the device has a battery, remove it and put it aside for a few days.
- Check if the damage is fixed by plugging the device into an outlet and turning it on again. If so, you’re done! If not, continue to step 5:
- Re-attach all of the wires, cables, and batteries to your device (if applicable). Then plug it into an outlet again and turn it on. If your electronics are still damaged, then you will need to have them repaired or replaced after all of these steps have been taken.
- If your device is still in good shape and it didn’t suffer any damage, then you’re done!
If your device is still broken, then you will need to have it repaired or replaced after all of these steps have been taken.
Don’t forget to reset the device’s factory settings as well after repairing it.
Signs of ESD damage
How can I tell that my electronic device or component has been damaged by electrostatic discharge?
Here are some signs that your device has been damaged by ESD:
- The device will not turn on at all.
- The battery does not charge, even when the device is plugged in.
- The display or screen is frozen or unresponsive to touch input.
- The device will not charge when plugged into a power source (either an outlet or a computer).
- There is a crackling sound coming from the device when it’s turned on (this usually happens within the first few minutes of turning the device on).
- strange noises are coming from the device, such as buzzing, humming, scratching, and rattling noises.
What is an ESD-controlled environment?
An ESD-controlled environment has built-in protection from electrostatic discharge. The environment is usually a controlled, monitored area of the manufacturing plant, and is designed to protect sensitive electronic devices and components in the event of an electrostatic discharge.
Some examples include computer workstations and testing areas in factories, warehouses, and manufacturing plants. The ESD-controlled environment should also be equipped with a means for removing or avoiding ESD damage to sensitive electronic devices and components.
Types of ESD Exposure
There are two types of exposure to ESD:
- Short-Term (acute) exposure: This is the most common form of ESD exposure. This type of exposure occurs when you touch a device that has been charged with static electricity and then touch another surface (such as a computer mouse) or certain types of materials (such as plastic).
- Long-Term (chronic) exposure: This type of ESD is caused by repeatedly touching a device that has been charged with static electricity, such as by touching your computer mouse for many hours in a row.
How do you discharge ESD?
There are two ways to discharge static electricity:
- Static Discharge method: This is the most common way of handling ESD, and requires you to touch a grounded metal object (such as a metal table or desk) with your body. You then touch any other surface (such as a computer mouse or any other device) with your body.
- Grounding method: This is less common, but can be used when you need to discharge ESD without touching any metal or other grounded objects directly with your body. The grounding method requires you to connect a ground wire from the power supply of any electronic device (such as a computer mouse) that has been charged with static electricity, to another grounded metal object (such as the case for the computer).
What can happen if ESD is not discharged?
If ESD is not discharged safely and quickly enough, it can cause:
- Performance loss: This occurs when your computer’s processor does not get enough power to function properly because it runs out of working memory due to being flooded with static electricity. The computer will be unable to handle all operations at once. For example, if you try to run two programs at once, both programs may crash or appear to be running slowly because there is not enough memory available for both programs at once. This may cause errors to appear in your computer’s system log.
- Physical injury: This occurs when static electricity is not discharged, and it builds up and releases suddenly, causing a shock or damage to the computer. For example, if you touch a metal object while holding the computer’s power button, or if you touch an electrical outlet with the computer plugged in, this may cause you to receive an electric shock.
- Fire: This occurs when static electricity builds up inside a computer due to a malfunctioning power supply or motherboard that is connected improperly without being grounded properly by the proper ESD grounding method and/or ungrounded devices (such as metal objects). If static build-up happens very quickly, it can cause overheating of circuits inside the machine which may result in fire or damage.
- Power supply: This occurs when static electricity build-up occurs inside the computer and it is powered on, which may result in damage to the power supply or motherboard.
- Data loss: This occurs when static electricity builds up inside a computer and it is powered on, causing data loss.
What is ESD compliance?
ESD compliance means that your computer is designed and manufactured so it can withstand high voltages and static electricity. ESD protection methods are provided in the design stage of a computer and are built into the motherboard, power supply, cables, etc. ESD grounding is required to prevent static electricity build-up inside the computer.
Static electricity builds up when a sudden discharge occurs or static-charged objects come in contact with other objects with high potential (like metal). ESD grounding prevents static build-up inside the computer by providing an adequate path for it to flow out of the machine.
What materials are ESD-safe?
Many materials are safe to be standing on, including hardwood floors, carpeting, and granite countertops. However, you should avoid using any of these surfaces if they have been recently treated with a water-based or oil-based finish.
In some cases, you can use a conductive putty or adhesive to transfer the charge from the surface on which you are standing to the ground under your feet.
Equipment and devices to prevent ESD
There are various devices and equipment that you can use for preventing electrostatic discharge. They include;
-Electrostatic wrist: These are used by professionals to prevent electrostatic discharge from happening. These wrist bands are worn on the wrist and are designed to prevent static discharge in the working environment.
-Electrostatic bench mat: These are used by professionals to prevent electrostatic discharge from happening. These mats are placed underneath the work surface to prevent static discharges.
-Electrostatic grounding mat: This is a conductive material that is used as a ground for preventing static discharge. This material is placed underneath your work surface to prevent static discharges from happening.
-Static control product: These products help in preventing static charges from occurring on your body when you touch or walk over an electrical device or object that has been charged with electricity
-Static control footwear: This is used by professionals, such as electricians, who need to get close to electrical equipment and objects such as circuit boards with large amounts of electricity flowing through them.
When it comes to the wearable,s buy one that will fit you perfectly.
We have discussed all that you should know about ESD and how to prevent ESD from happening. Preventing ESD is very important because it is a safety hazard that can cause permanent damage to electronic components.
It is also very important for many people, who have to work with computers and other electrical devices daily, such as electricians, computer technicians, and computer engineers.
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