Definition

electrostatic discharge (ESD)

Part of the Electronics glossary:

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the release of static electricity when two objects come into contact. Familiar examples of ESD include the shock we receive when we walk across a carpet and touch a metal doorknob and the static electricity we feel after drying clothes in a clothes dryer. A more extreme example of ESD is a lightening bolt. While most ESD events are harmless, it can be an expensive problem in many industrial environments.

ESD first requires a build-up of an electrostatic charge. This occurs when two different materials rub together. One of the materials becomes positively charged; the other becomes negatively charged. The positively-charged material now has an electrostatic charge. When that charge comes into contact with the right material, it is transferred and we have an ESD event. The heat from the ESD event is extremely hot, although we do not feel it when we are shocked. However, when the charge is released onto an electronic device such as an expansion card , the intense heat from the charge can melt or vaporize the tiny parts in the card causing the device to fail. Sometimes an ESD event can damage a device, but it continues to function. This is a called a latent defect, which is hard to detect and significantly shortens the life of the device

Many electronic devices are susceptible to low voltage ESD events. For example, hard drive components are sensitive to only 10 volts. For this reason, manufacturers of electronic devices incorporate measures to prevent ESD events throughout the manufacturing, testing, shipping, and handling processes. For example, an employee may wear a wrist strap when working with devices or may wear ESD control footwear and work on an ESD floor mat that causes the electrostatic charge to go into the ground instead of into the device. Sensitive devices can be packaged with materials that shield the product from a charge.

This was last updated in March 2011
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • geo-fencing (geofencing)

    - Geo-fencing is a feature in a software program that uses the global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define geographical boundaries. A geofence is a virtual barr... (WhatIs.com)

  • bandwidth

    - Definition: Learn what bandwidth is and how the term is used as a synonym for signal frequency range, data transfer rate and capacity. (SearchEnterpriseWAN.com)

  • quad-core processor

    - A quad-core processor is a chip with four independent units called cores that read and execute central processing unit (CPU) instructions such as add, move data, and branch. (WhatIs.com)

Glossaries

  • Electronics

    - Terms related to electronics, including definitions about electrical components and words and phrases about computers, laptops parts, digital cameras, televisions and home appliances.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question About electrostatic discharge (ESD)Powered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.