I have introduced you to a number of anti static products that are used in a professional and industrial capacity due to their special properties. Some of these include anti static flooring and anti static bars.
Today, we will talk a bit about anti-static plastics. If you are confused because you have never heard of it before, do not worry. I will cover everything in this guide- from what it is and how it works, to how you can make some for yourself to use.
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What is Anti Static Plastic?
Anti-static plastics are specially designed plastic materials that are able to reduce or completely prevent the production of static charge on their surface.
This is a special property that you will not typically find in regular plastic materials.
Regular plastic, when subjected to friction, can start to accumulate static charges and cause a lot of problems, especially if you are working in sensitive environments. We will discuss the risks of not using anti-static plastics in these settings further on in the article.
Why Would I Need to Use Anti Static Plastic?
As I mentioned before, when surfaces rub and slide against each other, it causes static charge to build up. On insulators like plastics, the charge remains localized within that area of contact.
As a result, whenever a person comes in contact with this surface, the charges quickly travel to the new target and may produce a shock or a spark.
In most cases, the person will experience a mild electric shock. There is a chance, however, that if the charge is too large, it can cause serious bodily harm to the individual. Apart from that, such an eclectic spark can have catastrophic implications for the surrounding environment as well.
In case the plastic is acting as a container for some flammable material, a spark like that could ignite it and lead to disastrous consequences.
The static discharge also interferes with sensitive equipment, especially those that work with microcircuits and complex transistors. It can cause permanent damage in a matter of a few seconds.
Therefore, the best approach to take, especially if you are operating in a professional or industrial setting, is a preventive one. Anti static plastics help you do that.
How Does Anti Static Plastic Work?
Anti-static plastics typically work by inhibiting triboelectric charging. Triboelectric charging is basically the principle by which static charge is built up over a surface due to materials rubbing, sliding, or coming in contact with one another.
Some of these materials have incorporated anti-static additives that lower the resistivity of the material. This makes the static charges more mobile.
As a result, they can be transferred and removed easily, the charge dissipating quickly as opposed to lingering in the area of contact waiting to be discharged in an exaggerated spark.
Is It Safe to Use Anti Static Plastic?
Yes. In fact, as I mentioned in the previous sections, the purpose of anti static plastics is to make your environment much safer than it would be if it were prone to ESD.
Are Anti Static Plastic and Static Dissipative Plastic the Same?
When it comes to ESD plastics, you can go either of two ways. You can either opt for an anti static plastic material or a static dissipative one.
Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably which is why it can be confusing for a beginner. You should know that they are not the same thing. They differ from each other based on their surface resistance.
Anti static plastics tend to have a surface resistivity of around 1010 to 1012 Ohms/cm. They prevent the build up of static charge due to substances rubbing against each other and producing friction. As such, these kinds of materials prevent the charge from being built up in the first place.
Static dissipative materials, on the other hand, tend to have a surface resistance upwards of 1×105 Ohms/square and less than 1×1012 Ohms/square. As opposed to actively preventing the initial charge buildup, they work by dissipating the static electricity before it has the chance to harm anything or anyone.
The plastic material’s surface resistivity enables it to quickly dissipate the static electricity, usually in the matter of a few milliseconds only.
How Do I Make Anti Static Plastic?
So how exactly is anti static plastic made? To understand this, we will have to revisit the concept of anti static additives. These are substances that can be mixed with the plastic material to give it anti static properties.
There are essentially two types of anti-static additives. They can either be internal or they can be external.
Internal additives are added at the extrusion stage when the plastic is being made. The additive is blended in with the polymer of the plastic, making a homogeneous mixture that gives the material lower surface resistivity which makes it anti static.
As the plastic starts to cool down, the additive molecules start to reach the upper layer of the surface to impart their properties.
External additives, on the other hand, are applied externally to the plastic surface. The additive is dissolved in a solvent after which it can be sprayed or applied to the plastic surface. The coating sticks to the top of the surface and makes it anti static.