Lightning Rods for Nanoelectronics; October 2002; Scientific American Magazine; by Steven H. Voldman; 8 Page(s)
We're all familiar with electrostatic charge: shuffle across a shag carpet in sneakers, touch a piece of metal, and zap. The slight prick we feel-caused when the electric charge built up by the shuffling suddenly leaps to another object-is nothing compared with what modern electronic equipment experiences.
On a dry winter day, walking on a new carpet can generate a whopping 35,000-volt discharge. We are not harmed by this high voltage, because the amount of charge that flows is puny. Still, it is large enough to destroy sensitive micro-electronic components. Researchers have come up with clever ways to prevent such damage. But as circuits get smaller, they become more sensitive to electrostatic discharge (ESD) and the old tricks no longer work. Can we continue to find new ways to prevent electrostatic damage and thereby maintain the pace of innovation?