How Do Ionizers Work?

by Andy on March 22, 2013

Benchtop IonizerWhen looking for equipment to keep your workplace ESD-safe you may come across air ionizers. Typically ionizers are used to ground insulated materials, as they cannot be grounded by attaching a cord like conductive or static-dissipative objects. In order to use ionizers correctly it helps to understand exactly how they work; so today we will be going over some basics of ionization.

What Do Ionizers Do?

The function of an air ionizer is to provide a way to neutralize a charge on an insulated object. This is achieved by using a device to create positive and negative ions, and then distributing these ions across the insulated object.

Air ionizers include a way to create ions (both positive and negative molecules) and a way to distribute those ions (usually through the use of a fan). When the ions blow over your workspace the negative ones will attract to any positive charges and the positive ones will attract to any negative charges. Once they bind to the charges your insulated object will be neutralized.

How Do Ionizers Make Ions?

There are three main ways that ionizers make ions. The two that are used the least in normal production are nuclear and photon ionizations. Typical work areas will not use these types, as nuclear ionizers use radioactive materials and are subject to government regulations, and photon ionizers use x-rays and are regulated by the FDA. The most common type of ionizer for normal production facilities are corona ionizers.

Corona ionizers create ions by applying a high voltage to the very tip of a sharp point. This creates a high electrostatic field, which interacts with electrons in the gasses around it. The electrostatic field then attracts and repels various electrons, creating ions in the gas molecules around it. The electrostatic field can then move the ions over the work area, but often corona ionizers also have a fan to make them spread further and more evenly.

How Do I Use an Ionizer?

The best bet to make sure you use your ionizer correctly is to consult the user manual or manufacturer. However, there are a few things to keep in mind for most ionizers to make them work to their full potential.

  • Make sure that your ionizer is able to cover your work area. Check that the coverage area is large enough, as any area outside of that coverage will not be reliably neutralized.
  • Ensure there is no interference from other fans or vents. If you have a cross breeze then that may affect the coverage area, or make your ionizer less effective.
  • If the ionizer has a fan, make sure the environment is right for your worker. If your workplace tends to be cold then you can get ionizers with built in heaters to help operator comfort and increase productivity.
  • Check the decay time of the ionizer for extra sensitive parts. If you need charges to be neutralized in a certain amount of time then you can find ionizers with low decay times.

Do you have any more questions on ionizers? Leave a comment below, or visit our site for information and specifications on different types of ionizers!

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