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ESD Basics: Conductors Vs Insulators


  • Electrical current flows easily

  • Can be grounded

Materials that easily transfer electrons (or charge) are called conductors and are said to have “free” electrons. Some examples of conductors are metals, carbon, and the human body’s sweat layer.

Grounding works effectively to remove ElectroStatic charges from conductors to ground. The other term often used in ESD control is dissipative, which is 1 x 104 to less than 1 x 1011ohms and is sufficiently conductive to remove ESD charges when grounded.


  • Electrical current does not flow

  • Cannot be grounded

Material that does not transfer electrons are called insulators, by definition non-conductors. Some well known insulators are common plastics and glass. An insulator will hold the charge and cannot be grounded and “conduct” the charge away.

The options for insulators in and ESD Protected Area are:

  • Remove the insulative item from the ESD Protected Area

  • Substitute the item with an ESD protective version (such as tape, document holders, material handling containers, plastic bottles, etc.)

  • Periodically treat insulative surface with a topical antistat

  • Neutralize electrostatic charges using ionization

Learn more about the Basics of ESD with the 06821 ESD Awareness Guide.

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