07 Jul

Is Bare Concrete Really the Best “Anti-Static” Flooring?

Is Concrete Really Anti-Static?

There used to be an old wives’ tale that standing on bare concrete for too long caused varicose and spider veins.  In the 60’s, that idea was largely supplanted by the hippie movement that believed standing shoeless on bare concrete allowed the body to become more grounded.

Unfortunately, it seems that the once-held hippie belief has permeated into the world of electrostatic discharge (ESD) prevention.  But nothing could be further from the truth. Because while bare, unsealed concrete floors that are allowed to ‘breathe’ have anti-static tendencies, they are definitely NOT grounded.

Nothing to Cling To

While the lower expense of a bare concrete floor makes it appear like a desirable remedy, there are several reasons it is not classified as a true ESD flooring solution.

First there’s that word – tendencies. Bare concrete floors tend to be anti-static, but they are not reliably so. That’s because anti-static characteristics are not inherent in concrete like they are in a carbon-filled material or a poured ESD epoxy.

To further complicate the issue, the measure of how anti-static concrete is, is dependent on many variables – the most significant of which is its permeability to moisture. If you’ve explored our website at all, that should immediately raise a red flag.  In an earlier post, we talked about why moisture is the #1 enemy to your ESD flooring.

A Shift in Standards

If that doesn’t scare you away, we discussed in this post about how anti-static is not an adequate measure for ESD flooring. To summarize, the term “anti-static” refers to a material that resists generating a charge. And bare, sealed concrete does do that – most of the time. But over the past 30 years or so, ANSI and the ESD Association made the effort to remove the term from their professional industry standards because it was so overused and misunderstood.

Those standards are discussed in this post.

And for good measure, we discuss in another post the dangers of cutting corners to save money when building your ESD Protection Area (EPA). Some up front expenses are definitely worth the long-term benefits.

Fully Charged

So, let’s assume that the concrete floor you’ve just installed is as anti-static as it can get. You can walk across it to any other part of the room and there will be no static buildup, aka triboelectric effect.

But what happens when the CEO comes down to inspect the area, and as he’s walked from his office to the EPA area, he’s built up a static charge. It’s on his body, on his clothes; we know that even the slightest movement in a conductive area builds a charge that can damage sensitive electronics.

When he hits that concrete floor, the charge doesn’t just disappear. It stays with him. Because while concrete has the tendency to avoid building up a static charge, it does nothing to dissipate an existing charge. And this is the biggest problem with the use of concrete as an ESD floor. It cannot act as a ground.

The CEO touches a circuit board, it gets the electrostatic discharge, ruining it – and he blames you. And then you have to install a true ESD floor anyways. Why not just do it right the first time?

We would love to be your full service, seamless ESD solution provider.  Contact us today for more information.

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