An electrostatic discharge is a serious problem likely to cause damage to your PC or even your body. There’s no better way to safeguard yourself from an electric discharge than using an anti-static mat.
But you must first know what an anti-static mat is and how it prevents electrostatic discharge.
In this short article, we’ll discuss the meaning and the working of an anti-static mat to help you prevent an electrostatic discharge.
Please read on to stay safe from an ESD!
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What is an Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)?
An electrostatic discharge comes from an imbalance of electrical charges within or on the surface of an electronic material. The material withholds the charge until when there’s a current or a discharge.
Touching and separating of two surfaces causes an imbalance of electrical charges. A buildup of electric charge occurs on the material with less electric current.
Mind you, the material on which the electric charge occurs could be part of your body or another device like a PC. It’s what most people refer to as an “electric shock.”
That said, the effects of static electricity aren’t a new thing to us because we can feel, hear, and see the spark as the excess charge gets neutralized.
These happenings are common in our daily lives. For instance, when you drag your t-shirt along your body when removing it in a dark room, you can see sparks.
It’s also possible when you drag your feet along a carpet and touch someone with your finger. The neutralization of the charge causes the common phenomenon of a static shock.
Electronic circuitry like those found in computers is sensitive to these electric shocks.
Walking across a vinyl floor can generate up to 12 000 electric volts. If an electrostatic discharge happens at this rate, it can destroy the sensitive transistors in integrated circuits.
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What Does an Anti-Static Mat Refer to?
An anti-static mat is an anti-static device that protects you or a piece of equipment like a PC from an electrostatic discharge (ESD).
Computer components that are sensitive to static electricity or ESD are:
- Expansion cards
- Memory devices
You can use anti-static mats under keyboards or mice. You can also place them on or under other equipment.
They’re mainly helpful when working on computer components. And once you ground it, it is essential to avoid lifting the component off the mat to prevent ESD.
The primary purpose of an anti-static mat is to reduce the impacts of an ESD on you or a static-sensitive component. Similarly, these devices help prevent explosions and fires when working with flammable material found in certain gasses and liquids.
An anti-static mat features a conductive material that absorbs static.
It must be grounded because it contains electricity. You can accomplish this by plugging it into a grounded electrical outlet.
Electrical components are the most susceptible to ESD. Common modules on a Pc that are ESD-sensitive include:
- Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) chips, found in CPUs and graphic cards
- Transistor-transistor logic (TTL) chips
- Metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFET)
- Laser diodes (LD)
- High precision resistors
- Blue-light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
Apart from using anti-static mats, you can also use anti-static straps, anti-static bags, anti-static agents and anti-static garments.
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How is the Design of an Anti-static Mat?
The design of an anti-static mat is critical to its working. It involves materials that help reduce static electricity.
When you refer to an anti-static mat, you are generally referring to a two-ply rubber mat. According to this suggestion, anti-static mats contain the following two layers:
- A top static dissipative rubber layer
- A bottom black carbon-loaded conductive scrim layer.
The top rubber layer is meant to absorb any static electricity from any equipment you place on it. The bottom layer provides grounding through a cord that plugs into a normal wall outlet.
The two layers connect through snaps.
But still, you can find a single-layer or triple-layer anti-static mat.
Making of anti-static mats uses either rubber or vinyl. The only time to consider which one to use is when you plan on using a monitor.
This is because not all materials are compatible with constant monitors.
To get maximum safety from an ESD, you can add other materials to make using an anti-static mat more effective.
Devices to consider for extra safety include:
In addition to composition and material, anti-static mats come in a variety of sizes to suit your needs.
How Do Anti-Static Mats Work?
The working of an anti-static mat circulates around the accumulation and absorption of static discharge. The makeup of an anti-static mat features a conductive material that accumulates static electricity.
Anti-static mats have a high electrical resistance that allows the electrical discharge to flow slowly over the mat’s surface.
When this happens, electricity flows away from your electrical equipment. The charge that builds up neutralizes as a result of reduced electric discharge.
As an additional improvement factor, anti-static mats are grounded or treated to be able to absorb static electricity. Being grounded ensures that the mat can safely discharge any electrical charge that accumulates with no impact on any electronic components.
If the mat isn’t grounded, it could absorb static electricity from the electronic equipment.
That would mean that anything that comes into contact with the mat gets a share of the electrostatic discharge. This could be you, or the item you needed the mat to safeguard.
In simpler terms, lack of grounding could make it impossible for an anti-static mat to dissipate the charge.
Using an antistatic mat correctly has a handful of advantages. They include:
- Absorbing the static electricity from any piece of equipment placed on it.
- Enhancing the flow of the electric charge away from the electronic equipment.
- Discharging any charge that may build up because of being grounded.
How To Correctly Use An Anti-Static Mat
You could be having an anti-static mat with you, but you have no idea how to properly use it to prevent an ESD. It is normal to find yourself in this situation if it’s your first time using it.
But it’s always easy when you master the following easy steps:
- Place the mat on a flat surface. This could be a desk, workbench, or a table.
- Plug the cord into a wall power outlet.
- Place the equipment you intend to work on onto the mat. Remember to unplug the equipment.
- Clip the alligator clip onto the metal chassis of the equipment.
On completing the above steps, you can safely work on the equipment. The mat will contain any electricity and discharge it safely.
The most essential factor to keep in mind is to stay on the mat while working with the equipment. You should also leave the equipment on the mat while working.
If you decide to remove your equipment from the anti-static mat, you’ll increase its vulnerability to damage by static electricity.
When it is no longer grounded and has accumulated charge, that charge can discharge through other objects. This could damage the equipment.
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Types of Anti-Static Mats
Selecting the right anti-static mat is the surest way to prevent ESD in specific areas. Generally, anti-static mats are divided in two categories: work surface anti-static mats, and anti-static floor mats.
Work Surface Anti-static Floor Mats
You can refer to them as tabletop mats. They’re typically thinner than floor mats.
Their finishes are either lightly or smoothly embossed. The reason for embossing them is to help minimize the surface’s reflective properties, lowering glare and improving operator comfort.
That aids with your complicated assembly tasks.
That said, work surface mats come in bright, light colors to help find small components on the surface.
Anti-Static Floor Mats
We refer to these as underfoot ESD floor mats. They’re usually larger and thicker than work surface anti-static mats because they need to withstand more wear and tear.
They are more durable, and last longer because of their strong formation. Their embossing is heavier, and may even contain hooks to prevent you from tripping.
As an additional bonus, most of them come with an anti-fatigue cushioning to improve your comfort so that long periods of standing are comfortable to improve your health.
Color-wise, they typically come in dark colors to hide dirt and scarfs from your shoes. But the darker the color, the more difficult the search for items when they accidentally drop from your worktop to the floor.
They are wide enough to act as an extensive ESD protection scheme.
NOTE: When using anti-static floor mats, it’s necessary to put on ESD footwear in regard to the floor matting. Doing that ensures you’re absolutely free from ESD.
Anti-static mats are important devices in our different work environments. They’re particularly helpful in places where you’re using electronic gadgets.
Please follow the outlined steps to install your anti-static floor mat appropriately to safeguard yourself from ESD.