When it comes to controlling Electrostatic Discharge in a commercial setting, one of the most important areas to address is the flooring. The floor is one of the single biggest surfaces, and almost every piece of furniture, major equipment, and even people will come into contact with flooring surfaces on a regular basis.
How does this impact your choice of flooring?
Well, obviously certain materials in carpeting are known to generate static electricity when the carpet fibers rub up against other materials, like the rubber in the soles of workers’ shoes. Since we quite obviously don’t want the flooring to make the ESD problem worse, we can rule out carpet that contributes to the buildup of static electricity.
This means that we start to look at the materials in the other available choices to see how they impact static electricity buildup and discharge.
Flooring & Electrostatic Discharge Pathways
It’s been said that electricity always follows the path of least resistance, but this is not actually completely true. Electricity will follow all available pathways when “circuits” are created (intentionally or not). The flow of electricity will, however, prefer pathways that have a lower impedance (resistance to electricity).
ESD flooring serves to create a preferred pathway for the flow of electricity, allowing the build-up of static electricity in devices, personnel, and equipment to have an immediate pathway to grounding.
In the case of conductive tiles or ESD carpeting, the flooring materials contain conductive elements (e.g. carbon lines or conductive yarn fibers) that transmit electrical current through the flooring materials. ESD carpeting options are made with a conductive backing that helps facilitate this, whereas ESD tile is laid using a specially made conductive adhesive to adhere it to the subfloor. Current is then transmitted to conductive tape or copper strips placed beneath the surface of the floor.
From there, grounding is achieved by connecting the conductive materials below the ESD flooring directly to a grounding point, or by placing a special grounding tile at regular intervals which is, in turn, connected to a grounding point.
The ESD conductive tiles and ESD carpets are manufactured and tested to have minimal resistance to electrical current, which increases the likelihood that any static charge will pass through the flooring and on to ground instead of damaging sensitive equipment or igniting flammable or explosive substances.
ESD dissipative floors work in a similar fashion, but are engineered to have a higher resistance than flooring classified as “conductive.” This causes electricity to flow to ground in a slower, more controlled manner.
Which flooring should you choose? We’ll talk about that further in our next blog post. In the meantime, contact one of our static control experts to help you create the solution that’s perfectly tailored to your situation!