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Hydraulic Filters and Electrostatic Discharge in Hydraulic Systems ben lee

Electrostatic charge builds when there are two bodies moving and creating friction. The fact is that this also occurs in hydraulic systems from the friction caused by system components with moving fluid.


Although we haven’t had a lot of situations that have involved electrostatic discharge, it is still something that every engineer should be aware of.

When an electrostatic discharge occurs, there is a clicking noise as charge increases and is then released. This is something that will often occur in a filter – leaving burn marks and potentially other damage.


With the increasing preference of using non-metallic additives in hydraulic oils the electrostatic charge could be on the increase. Those hydraulic oils that contain anti-wear additives that are zinc-based have considerably high conductivity.


Conductivity in hydraulic oils helps when it comes to moving electrostatic charge around the system. Although zinc-based additives will rarely collect enough charge to cause a big problem, synthetic oils can. This is because they have less conductivity and therefore will potentially accumulate more charge before discharging it.


Another change that could lead to an increase in electrostatic discharge is that there has been a change made to the materials that filter elements are made of. In order to make them easier to dispose of them in an eco-friendly way, they have more non-metallic material in the design, which lowers conductivity and therefore increases the capacitance.


The manufacturers of hydraulic filters are aware of these issues, and are looking into how they can minimise or even eliminate these issues.

However, if you come across a situation where there is electrostatic discharge in the meantime, then consider this:


By adding larger filter elements you can reduce flow density and therefore the amount of charge that is being generated. You might also want to consider increasing the tank size so that the time between charge generations increases.


This is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t skimp on tank size or on filter capacity. 

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