Consumer Electronics

Why is ESD - Electro Static Discharge - dangerous?



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ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) is actually electrons jumping from an electrically charged object to other objects. ESD is dangerous because, quite simply by brushing some insulating material, such as your woollen jacket or coat, against another object - or simply walking across a non-electrostatically treated carpet - the electron charge that then builds up on your clothing can end up setting up a very high voltage that is not, in itself, dangerous to you because your whole body is all at the same voltage i.e. potential difference to ground. You may have experienced this type of personal ESD when you slid off the seat of your car and then heard - and felt - a loud electrical "zap" when you reached out to close the car door! The real problem with personal static charge build-up is that it can be transferred from your clothing or your skin onto sensitive electronic equipment, for example a DDR RAM module (computer memory). If this is allowed to happen it could easily zap the logic circuits on the RAM chips and make them useless. The usual solution to this problem is to wear a special "ESD neutralizing wrist strap" which you simply clip to a solidly earthed object before you take the RAM module out of its packaging and wear that strap throughout the whole operation of inserting the RAM module into the computer's memory slot. Other good practices in offices, labs and workshops handling electronic equipment are to set the air-conditioning systems to maintain a relatively non-dry atmosphere and to treat carpets, curtains and other such materials with an ESD-neutralizing spray. If this is done regularly - say every month - it will help to avoid any high build-up of static on your clothing. You can also purchase specially impregnated ESD-proof carpets, carpet tiles and curtaining materials which help to avoid the need to do this protective spraying so often. Once a year might then be sufficient.