What is ESD?

by Andy on June 8, 2007

ESD-Safe Symbol Before you can understand ESD (electrostatic discharge), you first need to understand what static electricity is. Static electricity is the buildup of an electrical charge through an imbalance of electrons. This is most obvious when your hair stands up or when your clothes stick together right after pulling them out of the dryer. This happens because one item has a positive charge and the other item has a negative charge.

Technically speaking, an ESD event is defined as an event where there is a transfer of a charge between two bodies with different electrical potentials. The most notable ESD event is the occurrence of lightning (300,000,000 volts). However, the most common one you will physically experience is the shock you receive when you touch a metal doorknob after walking across a carpet on a cold dry day. Lightning is obviously an ESD event on a grand scale with huge transfers of electrons compared to the small discharge present when touching the doorknob.

If we don’t get injured when we are shocked by touching the doorknob, then why do we have precautions against ESD? ESD does do damage when it happens. Just like a lightning bolt can potentially kill a person, a small ESD event can potentially destroy an electric component. Small electronic components such as Service Mount Devices (SMDs) are very susceptible to ESD events. Whereas a person can only begin to feel an ESD event between 2,000 and 3,000 volts, a small component can be damaged or even be destroyed by just a few volts of discharge. By wearing grounding equipment and following ESD precautionary procedures, we reduce the risk of damaging these components.

For our selection of ESD products visit the All-Spec website or the Electrostatic Discharge Association website for more information.

Looking for more information about the basics of ESD?

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