How Do Anti Static Bags Work?

anti static bagsAnti static bags are used in the shipping of electronic components that are susceptible to damage caused by electrostatic discharge. Electrostatic discharges are common in most types of plastics. Due to the sensitivity of electronic components, anti static bags were created to completely disrupt the discharge and protect the components contained within. Common components that use anti static bags are: RAM, hard drives, CPUs, network cards, graphics cards and many other types of internal electronic components. An anti static bag can protect the purchase of a CPU while it is being shipped to the consumer.

What Are They Made Of?

Anti static bags were specifically designed with specialized materials to prevent any form of static electricity or discharges within the bag. According to a study done by Thomas B. Jones, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Rochester, there are two primary types of materials used in the creation of anti static bags.

  • Metallic Film Shielding – According to Prof. Jones, the metallic film shielding creates a Faraday Cage, or a conductive enclosure, that protects the materials within. This type of film is usually a polymer film that is coated with a thin layer of metal – generally aluminum.
  • Polyethylene – Prof. Jones states that these types of bags contain no metal and are able to dissipate 5000 volts within 2 seconds. This depends on the exact manufacturer of the anti static bag in question, however this is a general baseline for dissipation. This type of bag is generally clear, and is also commonly a translucent pink color.

These are the two most prevalent types of anti static bags. There are many other bags made out of different polymers, and some that are even a combination of these two types of materials.

How Do They Work?
Regardless of the material that is used in its creation, every anti static bag will shield the electrical components in one of two ways. It will either conduct the electricity, or dissipate it.

  • Conductive – Anti static bags that employ primarily metallic film are conductive. It is able to conduct a static charge on the outer surface of the bag. The static charge isn’t the issue, it is actually the possible difference in charge on one side of the bag compared to the other that can create a discharge and damage the equipment inside. Conductive anti static bags balance the charges on both sides, preventing any internal discharges.
  • Dissipative – Polyethylene bags are primarily dissipative. This type of material completely dissipates, or disperses, any electrical charge it may encounter. This prevents any type of electrical charge from reaching the components inside.

Electrical components require anti static bags to be safely shipped all over the world. Between these two different materials, and their corresponding methods of providing protection, electronics can be safely transported.

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