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If you've ever gotten a "zap" from a metal doorknob on a dry day, you've experienced electrostatic discharge (ESD). This type of electric charge is created by movement and friction and even a small discharge can trigger explosions. This problem is of particular concern to NASA, given the large amounts of explosive fuel involved in many of its operations. In addition to spark hazards, even small amounts of ESD can damage delicate electronics. Given the challenges of conducting repairs in space, destruction of small components can result in the failure of large NASA missions. NASA therefore has an ongoing need for detection of ESD in a variety of different situations.
Working with Kennedy Space Center, QFS developed an electrostatic sensing system under SBIR funding. QFS’s CEO, Dr. Zhang, received a Certificate of Recognition from NASA for the invention. The system is configurable into a wearable modality to detect hazards near workers, a fixed version for mounting at entry points to screen workers entering manufacturing “clean rooms” to make sure they are not carrying electronics-killing charges, and a portable monitoring system that can be set up near machinery, on process lines, or in other desired locations to identify and warn of developing static hazards. The system attracted commercial interest and is now being marketed for monitoring of high tech fabrication processes, such as manufacturing of semiconductors, flat panel displays, and disk drives.
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