Static electricity

To understand static electricity, you need to know the basics of atoms. An atom has a nucleus that consists of protons and neutrons, and electrons, that move around that nucleus. Protons have a positive charge (+); Neutrons are neutral; and electrons have a negative charge (-). Normally, an atom has the same number of protons and electrons. In that condition it is free of charge. But sometimes the electrons migrate. This causes a reduction of the negative charge and the atom becomes positive. An atom so charged is called an “ion.” Rubbing materials together can create an imbalance between protons and electrons.

Electrons cannot easily pass through certain materials that have insulating properties. When such a shield exists, the accumulating charge remains static unless grounded or otherwise manipulated. Sometimes the voltage gradient reaches an intensity that forces the insulator to break. Lightning is an example of this. (Here, dry air is the insulator between the clouds that sometimes carry static electricity.)

The industry loses billions of dollars annually due to damage caused by static electricity in various ways. This energy can also cause problems in daily life. For example, static electricity can cause electronic hearing aids to malfunction. Gasoline safety rules warn against re-entering a vehicle while it is automatically filling. Cases of fires erupting have been reported because the person exiting the vehicle touches the nozzle without deactivating static electricity. Touching the metal part of the car away from the fill point when the person exits can avoid this danger.

It is essential to eliminate as much as possible or control this immobile electrical charge to avoid problems. The first step towards this is to measure and analyze static electricity. There are effective instruments available for this. The appropriate process should then be selected and implemented with the help of experts. Induction in which tinsel is commonly used is a simple and effective method. Grounding, where a conductive mat is often used, is an alternative. Another procedure is to use a static eliminator to neutralize static electricity by ionization.

Static electricity is not always a villain. It is energy that can be harnessed. The industry is also finding uses for it. To give an example: for the in-mold labeling process, static electricity holds the labels efficiently.