Materials, equipment, and processes within aerospace cleanrooms make them more likely to generate static charges, as well as more vulnerable to the effects of static electricity. Metallic materials used to produce aircraft and spacecraft and their components can carry electrostatic charges, but even cleanroom-grade materials that aren’t metallic, such as vinyl or plastic, can generate static electricity.
Managing Static Electricity in Aerospace Cleanrooms
Managing electricity generated by static or other causes is essential for aerospace and defense cleanrooms that work with electronics, sensitive hardware, or unstable compounds. Particularly in aerospace cleanrooms, precautions must be taken to:
- Prevent the buildup of charges could attract contaminants to adhere to the surface of hardware, causing them to fail.
- Limit the chance of sparks which could ignite flammable materials and hazardous substances within the cleanroom.
- Protect personnel from electrostatic charges which could cause injury or spontaneous muscle movement which could cause damage to themselves, the cleanroom and its products, or others.
Static control measures can prevent or reduce the severity of hazards that result from static electricity as well as protect sensitive equipment. Using the right materials to manage static charges and allow excess electrons to flow safely to ground can make your aerospace cleanroom safer for your work and your workers.
Dissipative, Insulative, and Conductive vs. Anti-Static Cleanrooms
When it comes to managing static electricity in aerospace cleanrooms, there are a few key terms to know: conductive, anti-static, static dissipative, and insulative. All of these materials interact with static electricity in different ways, which makes them more suitable for some applications over others. Let’s break down each of these static control materials.
Dissipative Cleanroom Materials
Dissipative cleanroom materials are more resistant to the flow of electrons. They allow static charges to travel to ground in a more controlled manner than conductive materials.
Insulative Cleanroom Materials
Insulative cleanroom materials are very resistant to flowing electrons. Not only are these materials difficult to ground, but they can also retain static charges.
Conductive Cleanroom Materials
Conductive cleanroom materials allow electrons to flow easily. They’re used to direct static charges to ground and away from sensitive products, hardware, or substances. The conductive materials themselves must only generate very low charges.
Anti-Static Cleanroom Materials
Anti-static cleanroom materials prevent the buildup of static electricity altogether. Anti-static materials are typically treated with a coating to reduce or remove static charges.
Conductive vs. Antistatic: Which is Better for Aerospace Cleanrooms?
The best materials to use in aerospace cleanrooms for static control are conductive or static dissipative materials like stainless steel, carbon, or hard plastics filled with metal fibers. A grounded copper bar placed around the perimeter of the cleanroom, three feet above the floor, is a common solution.
All materials used to control static in aerospace cleanrooms must be low-outgassing and non-particle shedding. They must not transfer any films or particles that could contaminate sensitive hardware or equipment, which means materials treated with anti-static coatings are also likely unsuitable.
Get Professional Help Managing Static In Your Cleanroom
Not sure if conductive or antistatic is better for your cleanroom? Angstrom Technology’s cleanroom design experts can help you determine the best materials and systems to use for your application. Simply give us a call to get started!