How antistatic mats work and how they prevent damage
Static Shock is a real threat to electronic components. It can even cause explosions in gas, fuel, and coal dust. Luckily, there are several ways to prevent or reduce the risk. Antistatic mats are one of the options available.
So, how do antistatic mats work and prevent damages? The design of antistatic mats enables them to reduce the risk of static shock. These mats allow electricity to flow slowly over their surface. They are also grounded or treated to absorb static electricity. In this way, they reduce the risk of static shock drastically.
This article will shed further light on this question and other aspects relating to this question. This includes the design of antistatic mats, what types of antistatic mats you get, and how they work.
What is Static Shock?
An imbalance of electrical charges within or on the surface of material causes static electricity. This charge remains in the material until it can move away as a result of electric current or electrical discharge.
When two surfaces touch and separate it creates an imbalance of electrical charges. When at least one of the surfaces has a high resistance to electric current, this causes a build-up of electrical charge in the other object.
The effects of static electricity are familiar to most of us because we can feel, hear, and even see the spark as the excess charge is neutralized. This happens when, for instance, you drag your feet along a carpet and touch someone with your finger.
The neutralization of the charge causes the familiar phenomenon of a static shock or an electrostatic discharge. Electronic circuitry like those found in computers is sensitive to these electric shocks.
The act of walking across a vinyl floor can generate up to 12 000 volts of electricity. If discharged, this charge can destroy the sensitive transistors in integrated circuits.
How Are Antistatic Mats Designed?
By design, antistatic mats reduce the risk of electrostatic discharge. They do this by helping to reduce static electricity. Generally, when someone refers to an antistatic mat, they refer to a two-ply rubber mat. As this suggests, these mats consist of the following two layers:
- A top static dissipative rubber layer, and;
- A bottom black carbon-loaded conductive scrim layer.
The top rubber layer absorbs any static from tools or equipment placed on it. In turn, a cord that plugs into a normal wall outlet grounds the bottom layer. Snaps connect the two layers. There are also single layer and triple layer mats available.
Antistatic mats are generally made of one of two materials, either rubber or vinyl. Of the two, rubber is the most widely used. The question on which to use only becomes relevant if you are going to use a constant monitor. This is because some materials are not compatible with constant monitors.
For extra safety, you can also use an antistatic mat with other antistatic devices. These devices include straps, gloves, and bags. In addition to composition, and materials, antistatic mats also come in a variety of sizes to suit your needs.
How Do Antistatic Mats Work and How Do They Prevent Damage?
Generally, antistatic mats contain conductive material that accumulates static electricity. They have high electrical resistance and thus allows the electrical discharge to flow slowly over the surface of the mat. In this way, the electricity flows away from your electrical equipment while also neutralizing the charge that builds up.
Also, antistatic mats are grounded or treated which allows them to absorb static electricity. This design safely discharges any electrical charge that accumulates in the mat without affecting any electronic components.
If the mat wasn’t grounded, the mat could absorb the static electricity from the item being worked on. It would, however, then transfer the electrostatic discharge to the next thing it comes into contact with. This could be the person holding it, or it could even transfer back to the item it was meant to protect. In other words, it would not be able to dissipate the charge.
If used correctly, the antistatic mat:
- absorbs the static electricity from any piece of equipment placed on it.
- allows the electric charge to flow away from the electronic equipment.
- discharges any charge that may build up as a result of being grounded.
What Type of Antistatic Mats Are Available?
In their simplest form, antistatic mats take the form of tabletop mats. You can use these on a desk, a table, or any other suitable flat surface. You can invest in rolls of antistatic matting or custom-sized mats for larger spaces or dedicated workspaces. As mentioned above, you can also get mats that contain built-in control monitors.
Antistatic Floor Mats, which provide further neutralization of electrostatic discharge are also available. They provide further benefits of easing fatigue and reducing the hazard of slippage. Irrespective of the size or quantity of mats used, always make sure that all mats are grounded.
How to Correctly Use an Antistatic Mat
To properly use the antistatic mat, you should:
- Place the mat on a desk, workbench, or another flat surface.
- Plug the cord into a wall power outlet.
- Place the equipment you want to work on onto the mat. Remember to unplug the equipment.
- Clip the alligator clip onto the metal chassis of the equipment.
Once the above steps are complete, you can start working on the equipment. The mat will store any electricity and discharge it safely. Keep in mind that you would follow a different procedure, depending on whether you use a tabletop or floor mat.
Very important to remember is to stay on the mat while working with the equipment. Also, remember to leave the equipment on the mat while working. If you remove the equipment it is susceptible to damage by static electricity. Once it is no longer grounded and it has accumulated charge, that charge can discharge through other objects which can damage the equipment.
So, any time when you work with computers or other electronic equipment, it’s a good idea to use an antistatic mat. It can prevent unnecessary damage and save you money. But, what should you get?
Ultimately, you have many options when it comes to antistatic mats. Tabletop mats, floor mats, custom mats, the choice is up to you. The one thing to keep in mind is that you use the mat right and ensure that the mat you are buying provides the protection you need.