Static Electricity and How it is Generated

EXAIR published a white paper, Basics of Static Electricity, explaining what causes static electricity; how it is generated; and steps to eliminate it. You can download this paper HERE, and begin to remove the static issues in your plant or process.

In this blog, I would like to expand on the subject about how static can be generated.  On a molecular scale, the outer electrons that are orbiting the nucleus can be “stripped” and redistributed from one atom to another.  This will cause an electrical charge imbalance called static.  An additional electron will create negatively charged static while atoms losing an electron will create a positively charged static.  With non-conductive materials like plastic, paper, rubber, glass, etc., the electrons cannot move back to the original atom. There are three common methods of static generation that will cause this phenomenon to occur.  I will explain each one in a brief detail below:


Contact – Whenever objects hit each other, electrons can be passed to or received from the surface of another object. The number of electrons being transferred is based on the type of triboelectric material.  But, with plastic bottles or trays bumping into each other on conveyor belts, static can be generated relatively easy.


Detachment – when one material is being separated from another material by peeling, electrons may not able to return back to the original molecule. Adhesive tape and protective films are prevalent in generating static charges by detachment because of the larger surface areas.  As an example; when the backing material is being removed from labels, the static will cause the labels to be misaligned or cause jams.

Frictional – This is one of the most common reasons for generating large static forces. It is caused by two non-conductive surfaces being rubbed together.  The amount of force being applied to the material as it slides back and forth will create higher static charges.   As an example, it is noticed when you rub a balloon on your hair.  The more times that you rub the balloon against your hair, the stronger the static forces, allowing the balloon to “stick” to the wall.  It is also noticed as sheets of material are stacked or running over rollers.

Static tends to propagate.  The more contact, detachment, and friction that occurs; the higher the static charge.  Even when the static is removed from the surface, static charges can still regenerate by the same mechanisms above.  So, controlling the static can be determined by the type of treatment as well as the location for removal.

Another variable that affects static generation is humidity.  Most process problems are noticed during the winter months as the ambient air is drier.  With a lower relative humidity, static can develop easier and with greater strength.  We always refer to winter as static season.  You may even notice this when you walk across the carpet and get zapped by touching a door handle. 

Production problems can occur like dirty surfaces, tearing, alignment, jamming and shock to staff with static.  EXAIR has a number of Static Eliminators to remove these process snags that can cost your company money.  You can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR to discuss any static issues that are occurring.

John Ball
International Application Engineer

Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

New Product: New Clean room Rated Static Eliminator


           EXAIR’s new Intellistat® Ion Air Nozzle™ is the latest solution for static elimination in sensitive areas. Like the Intellistat® Ion Air Gun™, this new nozzle provides a lightweight solution rated for Class 5 clean rooms and controlled environments per ISO 14644-1. The Ion Air Nozzle comes equipped with a mounting bracket to assist with remote attachments or bench top assembly for hands-free use. It will reduce 1000 volts of static electricity to less than 100 volts in 0.6 seconds and up to 24” (610mm) away.  The Intellistat Ion Air Nozzle is a comprehensive solution for neutralizing static in sensitive processes like scientific and electronic testing, cleaning medical or pharmaceutical products and packaging, or removing debris from sensitive electronics.

            The compact stainless steel adjustable bracket can easily be installed into a customer’s process.  Hands-free operations that require both hands to package, test, or assemble parts are now possible. The Intellistat Ion Air Nozzle is equipped with an LED indicator to assure proper functionality and employs an EXAIR engineered Air Nozzle to maximize efficiency and meet OSHA requirements for sound level and dead-end pressure. The replaceable emitter point generates both positive and negative ions to eliminate either polarity of static electric charge.  They are made from durable, static-dissipative polycarbonate and feature a non-marring nozzle.  The Intellistat Ion Air Nozzle assures its usefulness in applications such as PCB or electronics manufacturing.

            The EXAIR line of Intellistat products is UL listed and CE compliant, along with the rest of EXAIR’s full line of industrial static eliminators. Shop these, as well as our line of Gen4 Static Eliminators, like our Super Ion Air Knives, Ion Air Cannons, Ion Air Guns, and more, on If you wish to talk about your static problems, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  We will be happy to help.    

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Quantify the Static Charge in Your Processes w/ EXAIR’s Static Meter!

Static Eliminators

In a recent blog post, I discussed the theory behind how static is generated (if you missed it, check it out here!!). One of the troublesome aspects about static electricity is that it’s hard to measure. The static charge on the surface of a part is not visible, that is unless the charge is high enough to result in a static discharge to nearby equipment or personnel. In most cases, issues related to static aren’t always 100% clear and are impossible to measure without the right equipment. So how do we measure static?

It’s actually simple: EXAIR’s Model 7905 Static Meter is designed to take the guesswork out of the equation when evaluating static charges. It allows for an easy one-hand measurement of the static charge on the surface. This allows you to measure in numerous places in the process to evaluate the true source of the static. In most cases, the highest voltage reading will indicate the source of your static problem.

The 7905 Static Meter is sensitive and responsive, indicating the surface voltage and polarity on objects up to +/- 20kV when measured at 1” from the surface! On the front face of the meter is a hold button, a battery indicator, and a “zero” button to zero out the instrument and ensure an accuracy of +/- 5% of the reading when 1” from the charged surface.

When looking for a method to identify the source of your static woes, EXAIR’s Static Meter is an ideal fit. Since the method used to neutralize this static is also invisible, using a Static Meter in conjunction with any EXAIR Static Eliminator allows you to confirm and quantify the result of the products working as intended. To do this, simply take a measurement of the surface before and after treatment with any EXAIR Static Eliminator. After being exposed to the static neutralizing ions, the residual static charge should be neutralized and able to be confirmed on the display of the Static Meter. For customers and applications that require it, EXAIR also offers an ISO 17025 Accredited Calibration service.

The Static Meter is the only device that will allow you to identify and quantify any static charge. Don’t continue to let static charges wreak havoc in your processes, we have them available to ship today from stock alongside all of our cataloged Static Eliminators!!!

Tyler Daniel, CCASS

Application Engineer/International Trade


Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Intelligent Compressed Air: Static Electron Theory

Did you know that the discharge you’ve likely felt on a cold winter day after walking across a carpeted surface and touching a door knob is a result of static electricity? To understand how this static electricity is generated, let’s first go back to basic chemistry class and talk about the atomic structure of an atom.

An atom consists of three basic particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons. The protons (positively charged) and neutrons (neutral charge) form the nucleus. Outside the nucleus, electrons (negatively charged) are quickly zipping around in orbits at specific distances from the nucleus. These electrons are bound to the nucleus due to electromagnetic force. Opposite charges attract, since the protons in the nucleus carry a positive charge this acts on the negative charge of the electrons and keeps them in orbit. The closer the electron to the nucleus, the stronger the bond and the more energy required to break that electron from its original orbit.

When an atom gains or loses an electron, it affects the balance that occurs within an atom. If an atom gains an electron, it now has more electrons than protons. This results in a negatively charged atom. The opposite can be said if an atom loses an electron, it now carries a positive charge. This charge imbalance is where static electricity comes from. Both positive and negative charges will remain statically charged until contacted by or comes into close proximity to a conductive or grounded surface.

The strength of this charge will depend on a few different factors: the types of materials, surface area, environmental conditions, etc. will all play a role in the generation of a static charge. The triboelectric series is a scale, listing various different materials and their tendency to become positive or negative. Those at the far end of the spectrum have an increased propensity to gain or lose an electron, while those in the center are more likely to remain balanced. When two materials on opposite ends of the spectrum come into contact with one another, it poses the greatest risk of generating high levels of static electricity. The chart below shows some common materials and where they fall on the tribolectric series.

When materials carry a static charge, a variety of problems can ensue during manufacturing. These can manifest in the form of painful shocks to operators, materials jamming or tearing, sheet feeding problems, discharges causing imperfections in the material appearance, etc. To remove the charge, we need to introduce static eliminating ions to balance out the charge on the material. EXAIR’s line of Static Eliminators create an equal number of both positive and negative ions to saturate the surface of the material and neutralize any charge present.

With a wide range of different solutions all available from stock, EXAIR has the solution to your static problems this winter. Give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss the application and help to identify the best method to mitigating any static issues in your processes. Take advantage of EXAIR’s current promotion (now through the end of March) and receive a free AC Sensor with your Static Eliminator purchase!

Tyler Daniel, CCASS

Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Atom photo courtesy of janjf93 via Pixabay Creative Commons License