How to neutralize static on styrofoam

  1. Ouabache

    Ouabache 1,316
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    I crumbled some styrofoam peanuts today, with the intent to pack the bits inside a chamber for insulation. In the process, I noticed they built up a strong static charge. It got to the point where more bits of foam were sticking to my fingers instead of falling into the chamber. And those that managed to fall into the chamber were being repelled back out. A nice physics demo, but annoying to me :grumpy:

    I remember using a Zerostat Antistatic Gun to neutralize static on vinyl audio records. For those who have never seen one of these, an image may be viewed a little over halfway down this page. I don't have that tool handy and wonder are there other simpler ways to neutralize the static charge on this material?

    I recalled the static we build up sliding in stocking feet across a rug during the dry winter months, and that this didn't occur in the summertime. Warm air does hold more moisture than cold, and at least in temperate climates, there is plenty of moisture available. This leads me to think of one technique to try. Go into a steamy bathroom and see if the foam discharges. Other than that I am up for suggestions.
  2. jcsd
  3. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    Interestjng question. I too used one of those alternating static charge guns over my vinyl records back in the day, but honestly I never understood how blasting + and - charges in alternation resulted in a net zero charge. I mean, it wasn't like it was a a deGauss exponential alternating waveform, after all...

    Beyond that, definitely the conductivity (mostly the humidity) of the air mitigates all of this. Does that mitigate the effects that you are seeing Ouabache?
  4. Ouabache

    Ouabache 1,316
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    Yeah the air is pretty dry here in the winter time, makes a poor conductor. Static charges would have a tough time neutralizing across dry air, that's why I thought of trying this in a steam filled room. (I'll have to dry out the foam filled container afterwards though).

    BTW, i still own an antistatic gun, just don't have it handy. As you probably remember, it does a nice job on most surfaces that attract dust.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2007
  5. Gokul43201

    Gokul43201 11,044
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    Ou, couldn't you pop over to the neighborhood Radioshack and buy a ground strap?
  6. Ouabache

    Ouabache 1,316
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    :biggrin: That would work great as I slide across a rug in my socks.
    Or are you suggesting the electrons are coming from me, as I crumble the styrofoam and accumulating on the smaller bits? (triboelectric charging).
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2007
  7. Ouabache

    Ouabache 1,316
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    Followup Testing

    Followup: crumbling the styrofoam in a steam-filled bathroom did significantly reduce the static charge. In addition, I periodically grounded myself by grabbing hold of the copper plumbing. I didn't try to isolate each variable to determine if one method was working better than the other.

    The combined method was a satisfactory solution to the task at hand. :approve:
  8. Danger

    Danger 9,663
    Gold Member

    You might also try spraying them with Cling-Free or similar laundry substance.
  9. Yeah -- static guard may work -- but be careful because those are often with propelled with some type of hydrocarbon propellent -- which may wreck the styrofoam! What I often do when unpacking a box filled with peanuts is just rub the box a few times back and forth on a carpet which somewhat neutralizes the charge.
  10. I just received a large package with styrofoam peanuts.
    When I unpacked the box, the peanuts were sticking to everything.
    In desperation I tried lightly spraying the peanuts with some Windex glass cleaner.
    To my amazement, it worked.
    The whole box of peanuts lost it's static and I was able to easily clean up the mess.
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