Video: Conductive versus Dissipative Flooring: Does it Matter?
September 21, 2018
Whether an ESD floor is conductive or dissipative—measured by testing electrical resistance—is too often used to predict the performance of an ESD floor, with one or the other purported to be a better or higher quality floor. In fact, electrical resistance—how conductive or dissipative a floor is—has little to do with performance. In this video, we tell you why, and give you best-practice parameters for evaluating the electrical resistance of an ESD floor.
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Conductive versus dissipative: Does it matter?
Conductive and static-dissipative are technical terms used to describe how quickly or slowly an electrical charge will flow across the surface or through the thickness of a material. With regards to static-control flooring, they are largely meaningless terms. Most static events in the workplace occur when a person carrying a static charge on his or her body touches an electronic device. Humans can’t feel a static discharge under 3,500 volts. Yet a discharge of as little as 20 volts can damage or destroy electronic components.
ESD floors are designed to inhibit static electricity, thus preventing damage from random static discharge. To perform properly, the floor must meet two criteria. One, it must draw static electricity away from people or charged objects and conduct the charge safely to ground. Two, it must prevent static generation in the first place. The floor’s conductive or static-dissipative properties are responsible for the first criterion, grounding static charges.
To predict how efficiently an ESD floor will ground charges, we measure its electrical resistance. For this test, we use a resistance meter, which measures, in ohms, the capacity of a flooring material to resist, or reduce, the flow of electricity. The ESD Association, an ANSI standards organization focused on avoiding electrostatic discharge, requires that all ESD floors measure below 1 billion ohms. Today, industry consensus is that a floor should never be too conductive, nor so highly dissipative that it cannot bleed static charges as quickly as they’re generated. So marketers insist, incorrectly, that the performance of a highly conductive floor is superior to floors with less conductivity or vice versa.
This combination of misinformation and a lack of technical knowledge at the specifier level has created a meaningless controversy about the advantages and pitfalls of conductive versus static-dissipative floors. The truth is, to simply discharge static to ground, neither range is better than the other. To comply with industry standards, all that matters is that electrical resistance measures under one times 10 to the ninth . The safest, best performing ESD floors fall somewhere in the middle of this range. Why? Because at the lowest point, 2.5 times 10E4, electricity may flow too quickly. Electrical currents seek the easiest path to ground. In the unlikely event that a person on an overly conductive floor accidentally became part of a live electrical circuit, he or she could possibly be exposed to a dangerous electrical current. At the highest point in the range, one times 10E9, charges that come into contact with the floor may bleed from its surface too slowly to prevent damage from random static events.
The goal is to find a floor that falls within the ideal range, what we call “the Sweet Spot”. That is, between one times 10E5, and one times 10E8. Any flooring material within this range meets current industry standards and will safely and effectively discharge static to ground.
Before writing any specification, you need to understand all performance criteria. As we said at the beginning, the floor must perform two important functions. The second is that the floor must prevent static electricity in the first place. The second property – called low charge generation – has little to do with whether a floor is dissipative or conductive. To be sure your new floor will control static and prevent damage from random static discharge, it’s crucial to measure two parameters, resistance and walking body voltage.
StaticWorx produces static-control flooring products that protect sensitive electronic components from harm caused by electrostatic discharge, ESD. To learn more about preventing static electricity, call or visit our website.
StaticWorx. We keep you grounded.
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