What is a Faraday Cage?
We have mentioned the term “Faraday Cage” many times on this blog before – for example when talking about the transport and storage of ESD sensitive items or the role of ESD lab coats in ESD Protected Areas. When discussing ESD protection, the concept of the “Faraday Cage” will always come into play. But what exactly is it? Read on to find out…
A Faraday Cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure formed by conducting material or by a mesh of conductive material. Such an enclosure blocks external static and non-static electric fields. Faraday Cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.
An impressive demonstration of the Faraday Cage effect is that of an aircraft being struck by lightning. This happens frequently but does not harm the plane or passengers. The metal body of the aircraft protects the interior. For the same reason, a car may be a safe place during a thunderstorm.
Lightning striking an airplane
In ESD Protection, the Faraday Cage effect causes charges to be conducted around the outside surface of the conductor. Since similar charges repel, charges will rest on the exterior and ESD sensitive items on the inside will be ‘safe’.
ESD control products that provide a Faraday Cage or shielding include Statshield® Metal-In and Metal-Out Shielding Bags or Protektive Pak™ impregnated corrugated boxes with shielding layer when using a lid.
ESD shielding packaging is to be used particularly when transporting or storing ESD sensitive items outside an ESD Protected Area. Per Packaging Standard EN 61340-5-3 clause 5.3 Outside an EPA “Transportation of sensitive products outside of an EPA shall require packaging that provides both:
– dissipative or conductive materials for intimate contact;
– a structure that provides electrostatic discharge shielding.“
ESD Smocks create a Faraday Cage effect around the torso and arms of the operator and shields charges from the operator’s clothing from damaging ESD sensitive devices. (Technically, suppressing the electrical field from clothing worn underneath).
There are standard tests measuring the energy penetration of electrostatic discharges to the interior. The Shielding test method per Packaging standard EN 61340-5-3 is ANSI/ESD STM11.31 and the required limit is less than 50 nanoJoules of energy.
Definitions from the ESD Association Glossary ESD ADV1.0 include: Faraday Cage “A conductive enclosure that attenuates a stationary electrostatic field.”
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) shield “A barrier or enclosure that limits the passage of current and attenuates an electromagnetic field resulting from an electrostatic discharge.”
Electrostatic shield “A barrier or enclosure that limits the penetration of an electrostatic field.”