Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is a very serious issue in solid state electronics. The static electricity can damage sensitive electronics within the equipment causing hardware failures and downtime. The way to eliminate this issue when working in and around electronic equipment is to make sure you are using certified ESD safe products.
Throughout this site, you are able to easily identify the products that are ESD safe by the bright yellow logo and the image in the product desription. These images are as follows:
An ESD event occurs when an electrostatic charge rapidly transfers between two objects. This transfer is usually caused when two objects with a notable potential difference in electrical charge contact each other. However, ESD events can also happen when two objects close to one another create a highly charged electrostatic ﬁeld.
Before the actual discharge event, the electrostatic charge builds due to an electron imbalance on the surface of the material. This charge can be created in a number of ways, including shoes scuffing against a particular surface, or certain materials rubbing against each other. This accumulation of electrical charge causes one surface to gain electrons (negative charge) and the other to lose electrons (positive charge). The ESD event brings the electrical charge back into balance by transferring electrons via current.
Why is it an Important Issue?
Electrostatic discharge appears in many forms. From lightning bolts to a near-invisible spark when touching a piece of metal, there is no single way to encapsulate all of the different forms of ESD. In many cases, ESD can be felt in the form of a mild shock, usually more irritating than painful. However, when it comes to the world of electronics and manufacturing, this little shock can prove costly.
The Dangers of ESD
The human body is very susceptible to the build-up of electrostatic charge. Many factors can contribute to this, from the atmosphere’s humidity to the type of shoes a person wears. These small charges will not harm a person, but electrical components can be seriously damaged by a single ESD event. Sensitive components can be damaged even by a discharge of a mere 20 volts.
Less sensitive components may still be susceptible, and cumulative discharges can create long-term problems affecting the functionality and performance of electronic components.
ESD safety precautions are extremely important in the electronics and semiconductor industries. The advancement of integrated circuit and semiconductor technology comes with an increased ESD risk. As circuits become smaller and faster, the overall sensitivity to ESD typically increases, depending on the materials used.
Basics of ESD Safety
Electrostatic discharge is an important concern when handling modern electronic circuits. Irreversible damage is possible if the proper precautions are not observed.
ESD safety begins with proper equipment and some essential ESD safety items are as follows:
• Certified ESD safe products: These products allow a safe pathway for static electricity to travel.
• Personal grounding wrist straps: Adjustable wrist straps use a standard resistor connected to a retractable cable that attaches to a grounding point, usually via crocodile clips.
• Anti-static floor mat or ground mat: These have a conductive material embedded within the mat that collects the static. The mat would need to be grounded (earthed). This is usually accomplished by plugging into the grounded line in an electrical outlet. It's important to discharge at a slow rate, therefore a resistor should be used in earthing the mat. The resistor, as well as allowing high-voltage charges to leak through to earth, also prevents a shock hazard when working with low-voltage parts. Some ground mats allow you to connect an antistatic wrist strap to them.
• Safety jackets: ESD-safe jackets are usually manufactured with carbon ﬁbers woven into the material, resulting in a Faraday-cage effect between the operator and hardware to reduce the likelihood of ESD events.
ESD Safety Video
There is also a video on youtube that details a little information on ESD safety which might be of interest to you if you are looking at this page. The link to the video is here: ESD Safety Video