Monday, January 7, 2013

Electrostatic discharge gone wrong - Zap!

Static electricity can kill electronics.  Walking across that high pile carpet in your socks and then grabbing your favorite gadget can deliver a 20,000 volt zap to your device and in some cases render the  electronics inside worthless.  In order to get UL listed, products often must go through static electricity tests where they are mercilessly zapped to see if it affects their performance.  Good electrical design can minimize the effects of these little lightning bolts.  To test their designs, rather than running around in their socks, electrical engineers sometimes use an Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) gun that can produce zaps on command to test their circuits.  These very high voltages try to find their way to ground.  If you provide the path to ground, it will have no problems going right through you.  In the video below, an engineer demonstrates several ways to use and ESD gun to accidentally zap yourself.  Don't try this at home kids!

While the gun produces 25,000 volts, it is relatively low amperage, so while it is painful, thankfully there are no permanent effects.  Also, the electricity takes the most direct path to ground which thankfully never goes through his heart  That is where it would get really dangerous.  Still, the video is pretty effective in motivating me to avoid these situations.  How about you?

From ElectroBOOM

Thanks David!

Still reading?  Well, there are a few more hints below...

By the way, you should NOT connect the red wire to the negative side of electrolytic capacitors:

...and always double check your connections before turning on the power supply: