II. Static Electricity


Lightning is probably the most recognizable effect of static electricity.Generating millions and millions of voltage and we all know the damage lightning can do to property and people.


Another recognizable effect of static electricity is the shock you receive when you slid out of a car in dry weather conditions and feel a zap.The human body feels a shock when the voltage is higher than about 3,500 volts.


Walking over a carpet can generate 35,000 volts. The Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) from this voltage can cause pain.The discharge is not life threatening but it still hurts.


The static electricity that concerns the electronics industry is the discharge that you can neither feel nor see.Refer to the chart from MIL-STD-263B (page 21) for typical electrostatic voltages that can be generated by the things we do all the time.As the chart shows you can generate smaller amounts of static electricity and since we do not see or feel discharges at less than 3,500 volts, damage can occur to static sensitive devices without our knowledge.


(a)†††† A Little Historical Background


In 1948 Bell Labs helped to invent the transistor and the electronic industry started to grow. The development of MOSFETs followed in 1962.RCA was the first company to use an IC in a television set in 1968. The first processor was introduced by Texas Instruments in 1973.Progress continued and ICís started to get smaller and smaller and ESD control became harder and harder.

In the late 1970ís (1978 to be closer) it became apparent that newly designed MOSFETís were failing for no apparent reason.A lot of work went into determining why they were failing and the damage trail led to the problem being static electricity.


This was the beginning of learning how to control these charges.There were many non-believers in the late 70ís and early 80ís that felt that a static charge could not damage or destroy integrated circuits.Even today there are some engineers that believe static is an overblown issue.


Today most companies recognize the value of a complete static control program.

Implementing a static control program may cost a few dollars (pesoís) in the beginning but in the long term can save money, boost reliability of product, and enhance a companies reputation in the field.



(b) ††† Static Electricity and ICís


Devices have various levels of sensitivity.A chart from MIL-STD-1686C and reprinted in the ESD Awareness Guide from ESD Systems will give you a partial list of various devices and their sensitivity levels.


A revised level of sensitivity for ESD sensitive components is shown in the ESD Association document ESD-STM5.1-1998 (Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Sensitivity Testing) on page 2.It is reprinted here because it is important information when you determine the level of your ESD program



HMB ESDS Component Classification


Voltage Range




250 to <500


500 to <1000


1000 to < 2000


2000 to < 4000


4000 to < 8000


> or + 8000



(c) ††† Observations


        Static electricity at low voltage levels is real even though you can not feel or see it.

        Integrated circuits have different levels of sensitivity.

        A systematic static control program can add to your companies bottom line (profits).