What is Ionization & Can it be Prevented?
In the late 1930’s, Walter Jaeger, a physicist from Switzerland was trying to develop a portable sensor for poison gas. He theorized that gas entering the sensor would bind to ionized air molecules and thereby alter an electric current in a circuit in the instrument. Unfortunately it didn’t work – until he lit up a cigarette.
The smoke particles from Jaeger’s cigarette “sparked” a change in current of the ionized particles and the process would be later adapted to the early version of smoke detectors used in most homes in the 1970’s.
What is Ionization?
Ionization is the process by which an atom or a molecule acquires a negative or positive charge by gaining or losing electrons. Ionization can happen as atoms or molecules pass through gases, liquids and sometimes solids.
For the purposes of our discussion, we’re primarily going to be talking about ionization through gas – a specific gas – our atmosphere.
As mentioned, ionization can be positive or negative. Because of the large quantities of air that we encounter in an average building, generally negatively and positively charged ions balance each other out. This is not always the case, however.
Sometimes ions on either side of the spectrum can build up, especially in an environment filled with recycled air. In fact, in some cases, there is a secondary ionization, where the electrons resulting from the passage of charged particles leads to further ionization.
In a previous article, we talked about the various elements of creating an Electrostatic Protected Area or EPA. There are some instances where the addition of an ionizer or an ionizer blower would supplement the protection afforded by a standard EPA.
Ionizer blowers create a dense and well-balanced ionization current that can help neutralize the air in an EPA workspace. A typical blower uses AC technology to continuously produce a balanced output of positive and negative air ions.
In addition, ionizer blowers come with many options – including task lights, AC and variable speed fans – that will complement the workspace at the same time the ionizer is easily integrated into the EPA workspace.
For smaller, precise jobs, you can even invest in a handheld ionizing air gun.
But, while ionization is good ESD practice in controlling necessary non-grounded static charge generators, they should never be considered replacements for the essential ESD protections – personal ESD wrist straps, ESD control mats and grounding cords.
Contact us today for more information; we would love to be your full service, seamless ESD solution provider.