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Electro-Static Discharge (ESD) Basics
Static electricity can build up on objects or people over time through as simple an action as
movement. This charge build up can reaches voltages as high as 35000 volts in people. As
with any voltage potential, if a conductive path exists between the voltage potential then
current will flow. The objects this current passes through can experience rapid heating and
this may result in damage.
In everyday life static charge build up can cause a minor annoyance to us when we receive a
mild shock from car doors, metal frames in buildings etc, but it can cause severe damage to
electronic components.
Examples of voltages induced due to static charge.
Walking across a carpet
Walking over untreated vinyl floor
Vinyl envelope used for work
Worker at a bench
Unwinding regular tape
Voltage Induced
1,500 - 35,000 volts
250 - 12,000 volts
600 - 7,000 volts
700 - 6,000 volts
9,000 - 15,000 volts
For humans to feel a discharge requires a voltage above 3000V but electronic components
can be damaged by as little as 100V discharge.
Example of damage to integrated circuits due to Electrostatic Discharge
At this magnification we see that ½
of the width of the material has been
At higher magnification, the pit in
the area between the base and
emitter becomes more obvious
Types of damage.
There are 2 types of damage that can occur in IC’s due to ESD. These are:
1. Latent Defect – The electronic component is wounded but passes inspection.
The device may fail over time, no longer meet it’s performance spec’s, or have a
significantly reduced lifespan.
2. Catastrophic Failure – the electronic component is damaged in such a way that it
no longer operates; this can be detected by inspection.
Ways to prevent ESD damage.
The main method of preventing ESD damage is to ensure that there is no voltage potential
between you and the electronic component. That is, to make sure you and the component
are at the same voltage potential, namely 0V (Ground).
Methods of Grounding and ESD protection
1. Use ESD-safe equipment – mainly soldering irons.
2. Use a wrist strap to ground yourself – as used when working with computers
3. Use a conductive work mat that is grounded.
4. Store electronic components in Anti-static bags.
5. If all else fails touch the metal case of an earthed appliance before handling
electronic components.