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Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is the sudden flow of electricity between two objects, most often caused by physical contact.
A static charge is created when there's an imbalance in positive and negative charges on an object. This commonly happens through the triboelectric effect—think walking across a fuzzy rug. If the object is electrically insulated, it will retain the charge. When a charged object touches something conductive that's of a lower charge state (often a grounded object), an electrostatic discharge (ESD) occurs to achieve equilibrium. The flow of that charge can potentially damage electrical components such as microprocessors along the path in the process.
ESD damage can be difficult to trace and diagnose. It can literally seem like there are gremlins in the machine!
ESD-safe ≠ Conductive
Minimize ESD Risk
- Unplug your electronic device.
- Remove rings, watches, and bracelets from your fingers and wrists.
- Keep your new parts in their pink or silver bags until you are ready to install them.
- Place all your bagged new parts on the anti-static mat before you work with them.
- Use an ESD-safe workspace with an anti-static mat and an anti-static wrist strap.
- Wear ESD-safe clothes. Don't even think of wearing polyester clothing (such as a jogging suit) while you work on electronics. Polyester is an absolute haven for ESD buildup.
- Never introduce vinyl, Styrofoam, or plastic (except for your '''ESD-safe work tools''') into your workspace environment. Surely you've felt a static zap from vinyl, or had Styrofoam packing peanuts stick to your hands? These materials sound a potential death knell to IC components.
- Wear ESD-safe, anti-static gloves. Natural oils from your fingers can transfer all too easily to the tiny IC components and conductive contacts inside electronics. When this happens, you can unintentionally create extra resistance and potential short-circuits. This is obviously not a desirable outcome, and it’s difficult to troubleshoot these problems to boot.
Caution: ESD safe procedures will not protect you from high voltage discharge from a CRT display or any other glass tube monitor or television. In addition, power supplies built into desktop CPUs or other devices contain capacitors with similar potential for high voltage discharge.
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