Types of Air Ionization

by Andy on June 9, 2008

Air Ionizer While personal grounding with items such as wrist and heel straps is usually the first step in static control, air ionization is a step that complements static control programs when grounding is not possible or when more protection is needed.

There are two basic ways of creating ions (ionizing). The first is alpha ionization or nuclear ionization. Alpha ionization uses a nuclear source such as polonium 210. The alpha particle (polonium 210) collides with air molecules and bumps electrons off the air molecules. The molecules that lose electrons become positive ions and the neutral air molecules capture the loose electrons and become negative ions. Alpha ionizers are beneficial because of the fact an equal number of positive and negative ions are created; everything in the work area is neutralized to zero.

The second method is corona ionization and this is what type of ionization we are talking about when we refer to AC and DC. Corona ionization is electrically based. In this method of ionization, ions are created by applying high voltage to a sharp emitter point which creates a high positive electric field. The electrons from the air molecules are attracted to the sharp point. The molecules that lost electrons are now positive ions and are repelled from the point. A similar thing happens with the high negative electric field except neutral air molecules pick up the electrons which ultimately create negative ions and are pushed away by the negative electric field.

Unlike alpha ionization, corona ionization usually doesn’t provide a completely balanced number of positive and negative ions.

Hand Held Ionizer The first type of corona ionizers is AC (alternating current) ionizers. AC ionizers use one emitter to produce both positive and negative ions; this is what makes AC ionizers unique. This is also beneficial because if one emitter becomes disabled, the balance of positive and negative ions will not be affected. The fast AC cycle produces an almost continuous stream of both positive and negative ions; therefore, rapid and thorough neutralization of charges is assured.

Steady State DC (direct current) is another type of corona ionizer. This ionizer uses separate positive and negative power supplies that run simultaneously to create bipolar ions. SSDC ionizers produce a high ion current because both emitters are continuously producing positive and negative ions. This type of ionizer is often used in rooms where low offset voltage is needed.

The last type of corona ionizer is Pulse DC. Pulse DC is the latest development in corona ionization and it is more demanding and complex compared to other ionizers when it comes to operating requirements. These ionizers are similar to SSDC in the fact that separate positive and negative power sources are used but with Pulse DC, the positive and negative emitters alternate. This alternating creates clouds of both positive and negative ions which mix together and create the pulse effect. Pulse DC ionizers can be used in a low airflow environment and the rate of the pulse can be adjusted based on the work area.

One thing to keep in mind with DC ionizers is that if one emitter fails, you may have an imbalance of positive and negative ions.

Need help choosing an ionizer?

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