Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) can cause damage to unprotected electronic devices even when the discharge can be at times imperceptible. Even though all LEDs are susceptible to ESD damage it is the GaN based LEDs (blue, white and some green colors) that are more sensitive to surge voltages caused by ESD.
Ratings for standard SMD LEDs are per industry standards with Red, Yellow, Green and Orange at 2000V ESD and blue and white at 150V ESD.
Alternative ruggedized version of Blue SMD LED with an ESD rating of 1000 Volts can be found.
Damage can vary in its degree, from very subtle to catastrophic, and invariably will affect the LEDs performance and life. This can show up in some unusual operating characteristics such as; increased reverse leakage current, changes to the forward voltage, increase in the “turning on” point (not lighting at low currents), flickering, erratic behavior or performance, etc.
It is recommended that all personnel, devices, equipment, instruments and machinery be properly grounded at all times. Anti-electronic wristbands and electrically conductive mats, ionizing fans should be used when handling LED products and test to ensure that the proper and true grounding indeed exists from the equipment that handles, touches and mounts LED lamps.
Electrostatic buildup occurs (and or increases) easily in dry environmental conditions (low relative humidity). A relative humidity of 50% or higher is recommended for electronic components manufacturing environments. Be careful when RH drops below 50%
Phil Heft – PEMS Specialist; firstname.lastname@example.org