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Explanation of Controlling Static Electricity by Ron Kurtus - Succeed in Understanding Physics. Key words: shocks, sparks, damage, explosions, computer, electronics, gasoline, plastic, newsprint, grounding, physical science, School for Champions. Copyright © Restrictions

Controlling Static Electricity

by Ron Kurtus (revised 22 January 2009)

Although people occasionally receive unexpected shocks from static electricity, the major problem from static electricity is its potential in causing damage to equipment or explosions.

Some devices—such as computers or sensitive electronics—can be damaged from a static electric spark. When using gasoline, you must be protect against sparks that may ignite the fuel. Some machines are plagued with problems from static electricity.

In these cases, control or elimination of static electricity is usually done by grounding or draining off the electrical charges, as well as using caution.

(If you are concerned about getting shocks, see:Reducing or Preventing Static Electricity Shocks.)

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Useful tool: Units Conversion



Protecting electronics

A static electricity spark can damage the internal electronics of a computer.

Technicians who work on the inside of computers should have a special pad on the floor and use a grounded strap on their wrist that will suck any charges from their bodies. This is to avoid any chance of damaging the electronics with a static electrical spark. When a person handles computer boards, it doesn't take much of a spark to damage the circuitry.

Anti-static wrist strap used to protect computer electronics

Anti-static wrist strap used to protect computer electronics

From PC Cables

Normally, when operating a computer, static electricity is not a problem. But if you have been having problems with static electricity causing spark when you touch things, it is wise to take precautions before touching even the computer keyboard. You should touch something metal to ground out any electrical charges you have, before you touch the computer.

Preventing explosions

Gasoline, other inflammable fluids and fine dust can explode when ignited by a static electric spark.

Gasoline explosions

People who are filling a gasoline container at the pump are advised to use caution to avoid static sparks. When you slide out of your car, touch something metal to get rid of any excess charges. It is also recommended to place the container on the ground when filling it.

Spark burned car   Spark burned pump

Fires caused by static spark igniting gasoline

When many gallons of gasoline are transferred from a truck into the underground tank at a filling station, there is a lot of friction caused by the gasoline flow. Also, since the fuel is very flammable, a single spark caused by static electricity could cause an explosion.

Thus, the truck uses a grounding device on the hose that draws the electrical charges away from the gasoline, preventing any static sparks from occurring.

Dust explosions

Fine dust in a grain elevator can be ignited by a static electric spark, creating an explosion in the storage facility. Coal dust explosions have been seen in coal mines, as have explosions in wood-working facilities.

Safety precautions have been legislated for these industries to dilute or prevent the dust, as well as to eliminate static electricity sparks.

Equipment problems

Special devices are used in equipment that has a tendency to build up static charges.

Companies making plastic goods have major problems with the buildup of static electricity. Workers often complain about getting shocks. Grounding straps on the machinery helps to reduce the static electricity.

Newspaper companies have anti-static devices consisting of strips of copper to reduce or prevent static buildup from the fast-moving newsprint.

Summary

A major problem from static electricity is its potential in causing damage to equipment or explosions. Computers or sensitive electronics can be damaged from a static electric spark. When using gasoline, you must be protect against sparks that may ignite the fuel. Some machines are plagued with problems from static electricity.

Control or elimination of static electricity is usually done by grounding or draining off the electrical charges, as well as using caution.


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Resources and references

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Avoid Static Damage to Your PC

Static Electricity Resources

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Top-rated books on Electrostatics


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Electricity and Magnetism topics

Controlling Static Electricity



Static Electricity topics

Basics

Causes

Detection

Creation

Sparks and shocks

Controlling

Uses

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