Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne EM Damage and Electrical Components
Name:  Jared P.
Status:  student
Age:  18
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001


Question:
Is it true that magnetic or electromagentic fields can damage electronic components like transistors? If so, why does this happen?


Replies:
Yes magnetic and electric fields can damage electronic components. They can do so in a number of ways. If the device depends upon storing information by orienting magnetic domains -- like a floppy disc -- and you place a magnet close by you will disrupt the orientations and damage the disc. If the device depends on controlling a small voltage of a certain component, like a transistor, and you overwhelm that small voltage with a large electric field, you will interfere with the device's operation. If the electric and magnetic fields are due to high energy radiation -- cosmic waves, x-rays and the like -- the device may be physically damaged and no longer operate properly. We are in a period of the 11 year maximum in solar activity and entire power grids are at risk from solar electromagnetic radiation.

So there are many ways magnetic, electric, fields and their combination can damage electronic systems.

Vince Calder


It is true that electric and magnetic fields can damage electronic components. These fields are what cause charged particles to change how they move. Such fields, if strong enough, can significantly alter the path along which current flows through an electronic component. The fields can also speed up or slow down the current through the device. If current passes where the device is not designed to handle current, or if too much current flows through a component, static electricity and heat can build up within the device. Neither of these would be good for an electronic component.

Kenneth Mellendorf



Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory