We know that electricity is created through the conversion of a primary energy source, such as coal or natural gas. We also know that a circuit is required in order for the electrical current to move and deliver energy. So how is static electricity created and what harm can it do?
Static electricity is created following the buildup of imbalanced, charged electrons on the surface of an object. In other words, it is an excess electrical charge that is trapped on the object's surface. Static electricity does NOT flow through a current. This form of electricity is generated through friction that transfers the excess electrons to the positively-charged object. The transfer, or neutralization of the excess charge, that occurs is known as static discharge.
In any laboratory environment, there are a large number of electronic devices and low humidity. Static discharge can cause shock, fire, and even explosion, so it is of particular concern in a laboratory setting. The following are recommendations that can be used to prevent the build up of static electricity that could lead to injury or equipment damage:
- Ensure the laboratory is adequately humidified
- Use anti-static mats
- Use anti-static personal protective equipment (PPE), such as polyester lab coats with carbon filaments
In addition, the power to the computer monitors should be turned off before cleaning to minimize possible static discharge.