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Answers to Common ESD Flooring Questions

NOTE: As ESD technology evolves, some faqs may become outdated; for the most current information, please refer to the FAQs on our knowledge base kb.staticworx.com

We have an access floor in our computer room. Cold air flows across cables under the floor. Does the airflow create static electricity? If so, are personnel or hardware at risk?

This is a common question with a straightforward answer. No, the airflow beneath an access floor poses no static threat whatsoever.

Static electricity is generated by contact and separation. Airflow causes static electricity only when the air is particulate-laden and the particulates are large, meaning numerous and visible. For example, in sand and dust storms that occur in dry climates, sand and dust particles are blown into and away from billboards and plastic signs. The contact and separation between the particulates and the charged surfaces generates static electricity, leaving high charges on the billboards and signs. In the these situations dust and particles will cling to the sign or billboard due to the static generated.

Remember: it is the particulates in the air, not the air itself, that causes static electricity. Normal air—even the air in a typical wind storm—does not contain enough particulates to charge up other surfaces. Like compressed air or the air circulated by a forced hot air system, the cold air (even if it is very dry) flowing under an access floor cannot generate static electricity: the air flowing across cables under an access floor poses no threat of static shock to personnel or hardware.

We are currently updating our workspace for potential ESD issues. We are trying to meet ANSI/ESD S20.20-2014 while controlling costs as much as possible. Could we get away with using bare concrete in place of an ESD tile floor?

This question has as much to do with aesthetics, as it has to do with static control performance. Obviously if you are asking this question about your current facility, you are the only person who can answer the impact bare concrete has on the impression your floor will have on customers and visitors. However, from an electrical perspective, there are several factors that should be carefully considered.

  1. Bare concrete can provide excellent electrical properties capable of meeting S20.20. I have measured the conductivity of some concrete that I found to be too conductive only to see that same concrete measure almost insulative during the span of the same year. This broad performance differential would be a hard sell to a knowledgeable auditor (or customer) as part of any ISO certification process. Bare concrete with high conductivity usually means a damp and often musty building.
  2. The electrical resistance of bare concrete will usually vary up to 2 orders of magnitude in either direction.
  3. Bare concrete will often absorb vapor from the soil below and become dangerously conductive.
  4. If you choose to stick with bare concrete you should test the resistive properties of your floor with an ohmmeter on a regular basis.
  5. We strongly suggest performing ESD S 97.2 body voltage tests to determine if the bare concrete will maintain voltages below 100 volts.
  6. If you use any areas of the factory for "hi pot" testing you should procure and install rubber insulating mats to protect your personnel from possible electrical shock hazards.
  7. You need to set an absolute minimum flooring resistance. We strongly suggest 100,000 ohms for a factory environment and 1,000,000 ohms for an operational equipment environment.

    These videos might help you expand your research:

What is the difference between static dissipative and conductive flooring?

ESD floors are categorized based on their electrical resistance properties. Resistance is measure in ohms. A static conductive floor measures between 25,000 and 1,000,000 ohms also expressed as 2.5 X 10 E4 - 1.0 X 10 E6. A static dissipative floor measures between 1,000,000 ohms and 1,000,000,000 ohms also expressed as 1.0 X 10 E6 to 1.0 X 10 E9. Floors should never be purchased solely based on whether they are categorized as conductive or static dissipative. Conductive floors should never be used in end user operational equipment environments. This white paper documents a study comparing the performance of conductive and static dissipative carpet tile. Watch this short video to understand the importance of defining the right ohms range of your floors: ESD Flooring: Static Dissipative vs. Static Conductive

Would I be better off with an anti static, static dissipative or a conductive floor?

This question usually indicates a lot of confusion. Fortunately we have guidelines and standards to help us identify and properly specify the right floor. Finding the right floor means matching that floor to the specific needs of your environment. A floor that might perform very well in combination with anti static footwear in an electronics manufacturing facility might be too conductive and also ineffective in a data center or 911 public safety dispatch operation because people wear regular footwear in those areas. Watching these two videos should help alleviate confusion and provide a good starting point for research.

How are static dissipative and conductive properties added to flooring?

Static control flooring differs from standard flooring. Unlike standard flooring, static control floors allow electricity to move across and through them. Regular flooring stores or holds electricity and generates static charges on the people who walk on it. Regular flooring cannot be grounded. Static control flooring dissipates or conducts electricity and other electrical currents to ground. Static control floors can be grounded.

Almost any type of flooring can be made into a conductive or static dissipative floor. The most common way to produce a static control floor is to add carbon or graphite to the standard flooring formula. Here are a few examples of how this is done:

Epoxy floors are made using liquid catalyst driven resins. Carbon particulate or carbon fibers are added to the epoxy while it is in liquid form. Depending on the percentage of the additive we can produce a highly conductive epoxy floor for explosives handling or if we add a slightly lower percentage of the additive we can create a static dissipative version.

Standard carpet tile is a static generator. If we wrap carbon loaded fibers around the exterior of the tile's nylon filaments, we can turn a static generating carpet into a static control floor. Depending on the type of carbon fiber and the design of the carpet tile, it is possible to control the ohms resistance of the tile and create either static dissipative or static conductive flooring. Since carpet tiles are rarely used in explosives handling operations (conductive flooring required), most carpet tile applications are for end user environments that require the static dissipative version.

This video provides an overview of static control flooring options: What is electro static discharge (ESD) Flooring?

How long do conductive and static dissipative properties last in ESD flooring?

Properly designed, static control properties should last as long as the floor itself. Most conductive and static dissipative floors are manufactured using materials like carbon, graphite and silver. These are elemental conductive or dissipative materials. As long as these additives are bonded to the flooring in adequate concentration, they should provide static dissipation forever. Some ESD flooring materials lose their ability to eliminate static because of outside influences like maintenance. For example, ESD vinyl tile will become a static generator if it is polished using generic floor waxes.

If something is anti static, does that mean it will dissipate or conduct electricity?

The terms anti static and conductive are independent of one another. When we describe a floor as anti static, we mean that the floor will not generate static electricity charges under specific circumstances. Those circumstances could be limited to certain shoe sole materials like anti static footwear or leather shoe soles. A floor does not necessarily need conductive properties - or to have the ability to conduct - in order to inhibit the build-up of static on people walking on it. However, any anti static floor that does not dissipate or conduct electricity is made using anti static sprays or additives. These additives will usually lose their anti static properties in a short amount of time. Anti static properties are generally expressed as "charge generation" in volts or kilovolts (kV.) An anti static floor can not be grounded unless it has conductive or static dissipative properties. Conductive and static dissipative properties are expressed using a unit of measure called the ohm. This video explains the difference between static dissipative and conductive.
ESD Flooring: Static Dissipative vs. Static Conductive

Could a conductive floor endanger people working around operational energized equipment?

Standards organizations do not recommend conductive flooring in end user operational equipment environments. Conductive flooring offers no static control advantage over static dissipative flooring in controlling static accumulation on people walking on the floor. For example, this August, 2011 independent lab study compares the charge generation performance of static dissipative carpet tile against conductive carpet tile. The static control results are nearly identical with the slight advantage in favor of the static dissipative carpet. Keep in mind that a conductive floor potentially exposes workers to more electrical current than static dissipative flooring in the unlikely event of a stray voltage or short circuit. There is no incentive to sidestepping grounding standards like ATIS, and Motorola R56 when it comes to liability and personal safety around electricity. These videos may provide further understanding on the subject.

Do conductive and static dissipative tiles need to contact one another in order to be grounded?

Static control tiles dissipate static from the top of the tile to the bottom of the tile - not side to side. If we place two tiles tightly against each other and measure electrical continuity from the top of one tile to the top of an adjacent tile, we would likely measure a very high resistance. A high resistance indicates no electrical continuity between static control tiles. The conductive adhesive eliminates this problem. Conductive adhesive acts as an electrical conduit between all the tiles in an installation. Without conductive adhesive, each tile would be nothing more than a small ungrounded island. With conductive adhesive, the tile tiles become one single grounded static control surface.

How does relative humidity affect the performance of an ESD floor?

Static generation occurs more easily when the climate is dry. Static also stores better on surfaces when the air is dry. Sometimes an ESD floor will appear to perform when the humidity is over 40 percent. This is quite normal with carpet. Any ESD carpet should be tested at least as low as 12 percent relative humidity. Unless the carpet is loaded with carbon fibers, most carpets will fail below 20 percent RH.

Can new floors be installed over old?

This is one of those questions that should be answered only by a qualified flooring professional, based upon either a site inspection or a lengthy conversation. Almost any floor can be installed over an old floor as long as the old floor is in good condition and well-bonded to the sub floor. Some floors are much easier and less risky to install over old floors. Vinyl, for example, can be installed over existing vinyl. However, vinyl is stiff and unforgiving—it could delaminate if the adhesive does not cure well or if the surface is slightly uneven. The possibility of failure is much greater installing vinyl over vinyl than it would be if ESD carpet were installed over old vinyl. Carpet tiles are flexible and the release adhesive bonds extremely well to old vinyl and epoxy. Many installers prefer installing carpet tiles over old vinyl rather than over new concrete. Often, the choice of installing over old floors involves a decision to avoid removing old vinyl because it contains asbestos and the cost of removal might be a budget buster.

Why should I worry about moisture protection with ESD flooring?

Moisture permeation through concrete slabs can wreak havoc with all types of flooring. Several years ago, the Rubber Association determined that levels exceeding 3 pounds of moisture per 1000 square feet per 24 hour period caused serious problems, such as delamination, adhesive breakdown and adhesive oozing. High moisture can also lead to the development of bacteria and molds, which, in addition to causing foul odors, contribute to sick building syndrome. The industry standard test for moisture permeation is the calcium chloride test. The test is simple and accurate. For the reasons stated above, high readings must not be ignored

How do I ground materials and carts to a conductive tile floor?

Add conductive drag chains and casters to materials and carts to ground them to esd flooring.

The photo to the right shows a recently completed Conductive Vinyl tile installation. This client plans to use "wire shelf carts" to move electronics assemblies around the floor. Even though this floor is grounded and conductive, the cart will not be grounded as its wheels are insulators. Static cannont drain through an insulator even if that insulator is resting on an esd, anti static floor. The cart shown in the photo does not have a conductive drag chain or conductive casters. Adding conductive wheels or drag chains to the cart provides a path for charge in the cart to drain to ground, in this case the conductive floor.

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Does it do any good to have ESD chairs if the floor is not ESD?

A chain is only as good as its weakest link. In an electrical chain, a weak link creates a breach in conductivity. A loose or disconnected wire is the simplest example: If a wire is loose or a cord is unplugged, the chain ends; the electrical current does not reach its intended target. With static control, the idea is to discharge the built-up (static) electrical current to ground. A person can wear a wrist and/or heel strap and sit on an ESD chair, but if the floor cannot discharge the static generated by friction-walking across the floor, moving in the chair-the charge cannot flow to ground. It has no way to get there.

Remember: a static charge cannot discharge through plastic or other electrically insulative flooring materials.

Think of a person's body as an isolated conductive object (AKA a capacitor) capable of storing static electricity. Kind of like a two-legged Van-de-Graff generator. When the static-charged person approaches and then sits in the conductive chair, the static charge on the body immediately flows to the chair-until both the body and the chair share the same charge. We call this sharing potential.

An electrical charge can flow only between conductive objects. Since the floor is non-conductive, the charge remains static. In the scenario you have described, the chair and the person remain ungrounded because they are isolated from ground. There is no conductive path through the floor. If either the person or the chair make contact with electronic equipment - both will discharge to the equipment simultaneously. Without a conductive floor, a conductive chair is nothing more than another charged body looking for a place to discharge. Kind of like an accident waiting to happen.

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I have a #6 AWG copper conductor and the copper strip/tape - how to I best MATE those together ? Or how do I ensure conductivity across the floor?

What you're really asking is this: how do I ensure continued conductivity across the static control floor? The answer must involve your choice of static control flooring.

First, there are several different types of static control floor covering. All possess different properties and some of the floor coverings have limitations. For example, Armstrong manufactures a product called SDT. Armstrong SDT requires special waxes to make it perform. Some antistatic broadloom cannot be grounded at all because it is not conductive.

Staticworx® vinyl tile is a permanently conductive material that requires no special care to remain conductive. Waxes are not needed. Our vinyl tiles can be grounded using a simple 24 inch long, 2 inch wide, copper strip under one tile. We provide the strips as part of our package. The other end of the strip is attached to an electrical outlet using one of the screws in the outlet box.

Only one ground connection is needed per 1000 square feet. The other tiles are bonded via our conductive pressure sensitive adhesive-GroundTack®-which contains conductive coated fibers.

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Can you explain the differences between low static and anti-static with grounding?

Questions about the differences between what we commonly call "antistatic carpet" versus "permanent static control carpet" (also known as ESD carpet) usually get raised at some point in every project. The distinction is critical. Numerous flooring products are bought with the belief that they are antistatic when in fact - they often are, or become, static generators. When that misapplication involves the choice of flooring for common office space or a hotel lobby, it's no big deal. But if the flooring is for the command center of a public utility or the server room for a stock exchange, not understanding the technical differences can be catastrophic.

In order to answer this question clearly there are a few pieces of information you'll need to know.

Never rely on the AATCC-134 specification to judge a floors' static control protective properties. To protect electronic devices and equipment, static control floors must:

  1. Be antistatic - the floor must prevent the generation of static electricity
  2. Be capable of being grounded. A ground wire alone does NOT ground the floor. The ESD flooring material must be made with conductive elements such as carbon, carbon fibers or other conductive materials
  3. Must have permanent static control properties - independent of environmental conditions such as temperature or humidity.
  4. Be traffic-resistant - traffic and chair castors should not diminish the static control performance of the floor.
  5. Perform without the need for special maintenance procedures such as waxing, spraying or buffing with antistats.

Conductive properties are easily measured with simple, inexpensive ohm-meter.

Read more at www.esdtile.com

Are there any scientific studies about the performance of anti static flooring or conductive flooring for mission critical environments or data centers?

Random static discharge will wreak havoc inside your data or call center causing lost or corrupted data, dropped calls, pc lockup and blown headsets. Designers of 24/7/365 mission critical spaces such as data centers, 911 call centers, command centers, server rooms and flight control towers routinely design their spaces to withstand external threats such as weather, power outages, earthquakes and, in some cases, even biological threats. An invisible internal threat that is sometimes overlooked, electrostatic discharge (ESD) can wreak havoc inside any mission-critical space. Dropped calls, blown headsets, PC lockup and lost or corrupted data represent just a few of the problems.

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Is ESD epoxy appropriate for a small server room?

Although we appreciate your interest in our epoxy ESD flooring, we need to caution you about the limitations of static dissipative or conductive epoxy coating in a data center/server room application.

All ESD coatings are formulated to eliminate static build-up by providing a ground path. The ability to be grounded is achieved by adding either conductive fibers or carbon and graphite particulate. The fibers and particulate enable us to create an electrical bridge through a material that otherwise, is an insulating static generator. However, conductivity is the only static control property provided by a coating. The coating is not antistatic. In other words, ESD coatings will only eliminate static if they are used in conjunction with special static control footwear. If people walk on them with standard footwear (dress shoes, sneakers, hiking boots etc.) the coating will neither prevent the generation of static nor remove the charge after it is generated. You would still need to bridge the electrical gap between your body and the floor by wearing special footwear special. Walking on any ESD coating in street shoes would be the same as walking across a sheet of plastic. The result would be the generation of thousands of volts and an increased likelihood of an ESD event!

In data centers we recommend the following conductive materials:

  1. Conductive rubber that also has anti-static properties.
  2. Conductive vinyl tile with anti-static properties.
  3. Conductive carpet tile with anti-static properties.
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Is static control floor finish appropriate for an MRI suite in a hospital?

We often supply floor finishes for use on soiled ESD vinyl sheet flooring. The application of a polish or finish usually becomes necessary a few months after installation; as you probably know, when vinyl ages and is exposed to foot traffic, it becomes porous and begins to collect dirt. A good ESD polish will re-seal the pores without hurting the static control properties of the floor.

Additionally, if the flooring in the MRI suite is only static dissipative and not a conductive product, it would not be unusual for people to generate static when they walk on that floor with ordinary footwear - as opposed to special static footwear. Keep in mind, a person would not even realize they were generating charges because it takes at least a 3500 volt zap before the human body can sense a static discharge. The electronics inside MRI equipment is sensitive to a lot less than 3500 volts - hence the reason for installing the ESD floor in the first place. The static control coating would deal with that problem as well.

If you encounter flooring applications for these types of areas in the future, we strongly recommend installing 2 layer Staticworx® EC Rubber. A recent study done by MIT demonstrated the near impossibility of generating appreciable amounts of static on 2 layer rubber - no matter what footwear was worn. As a comparison they measured fewer than 200 volts on rubber versus over 3000 volts on the dissipative vinyl. And because 2 layer Staticworx® EC Rubber flooring is plasticizer-free, it presents none of the maintenance issues associated with vinyl.

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ESD Standards; What is the correct system resistance?

From a purely technical perspective, a floor's ESD properties can be evaluated:

  1. by measuring the floor's resistance to ground;
  2. by measuring the total resistance ground of the system including the person and the floor;
  3. by using a walking test to measure voltage generation on a person;
  4. or by testing some combination of the above.

According to the recommendations of ANSI/ESD S20.20, it is acceptable to install a floor with a resistance to ground (RTG) that is =1.0 X10E9. But, to comply with ESD standards, the floor must not allow body voltage generation over 100V.

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