I'm currently working on a PCB design that will be battery powered. However, it will be necessary at times to plug the device into a computer to program it.

When the PCB is plugged into the computer, it will tie the PCB power common to the PC's USB power common.

Now my question: What kind of ESD protection is typically required/recommended when designing battery powered electronics? Because the device won't typically be grounded, it seems like I won't need to worry about possible static discharge when touching the device. However, I'm concerned about when I have it plugged into the computer...

Is it generally a good idea to always include ESD protection diodes, even when if the device will typically be battery powered?


  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you planning on powering off the device before plugging it into USB power? What is your battery voltage, and how is it connected to what you call "PCB power?" What voltage is "PCB power and how is that voltage generated from battery? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrew W.
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewW. To simplify the design, i decided that it will only be battery powered, no USB power when connected. The battery will be 3.3V will use a 3.3V regulator. Thus when I program it, it will be necessary for me to keep the battery power on. \$\endgroup\$
    – Izzo
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 19:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Remember to still use the USB ground as reference for the 3.3V signals. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrew W.
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 21:59

1 Answer 1


What kind of ESD protection is typically required/recommended when designing battery powered electronics?

Many modern IO chips will state the ESD human body level withstand voltage in their data sheets and you could use that figure. It makes no difference that the unit is battery powered or not - the IO chips most vulnerable do not know this and cannot change their protection characteristics!

Next, you have to decide what human body model ESD voltage level is suitable for your product.

Some chips will be 4 kV suitable but (for instance), you might want to go for 8 kV then you have to decide whether to change the chips or apply supplementary protection.

If you go for supplementary protection then several different methods may be suitable. For inputs adding a series resistor and TVS/zener is usually enough and some inputs may be OK with ESD diodes direct to the internal power rails. Just adding a capacitor from input to 0V may sometimes be good enough.

Outputs are generally required to drive more current and may not be so easily protected in the same way as inputs so, without getting into a long-drawn out series of guesses, I suggest you come clean and spill the details.


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