ESD Spark Behavior and Modeling for Geometries having Spark Lengths Greater than the Value Predicted by Paschen's Law


The insulation of plastic enclosures provides protection against direct electrostatic discharge (ESD) discharges to the system inside. However, seams between plastic parts are often unavoidable. To increase the voltage at which an ESD will penetrate the structure of the seam can be modified. Four plastic arrangements are constructed to investigate the spark length and current derivatives and to understand the ESD spark behavior for geometries having spark lengths longer than the values predicted by Paschen's law. A two to threefold increase of spark lengths was found for sparks guided by plastic surfaces compared to spark length expected from the Paschen value at the same voltage level. In spite of the longer path, a faster spark development is observed for sparks along the plastic surface. Plastic arrangements that provide detour and fold-back paths hardly reduced the total spark length. No significant effects of the plastic materials or the polarity were observed. The spark length increased as the (absolute humidity) Absolute humidity (AH) increased, and the current derivative decreased by about 20% as the spark length increased with (relative humidity) Relative humidity (RH) changing from 9% to 65% at 29 °C. The spark resistance is modeled by a modified Rompe and Weizel's law, which distinguishes the spark development in the air and along the plastic surface.


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Electric Sparks; Electrostatic Discharge; Electrostatics; Models; Plastic Parts; Absolute Humidity; Current Derivatives; Paschen's Law; Plastic Enclosure; Plastic Materials; Plastic Surfaces; Spark Resistances; Voltage Levels; Electrostatic Devices; Modeling

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0018-9375; 1558-187X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2018 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Feb 2018