If you’re like most people, you probably stick your grocery list on your refrigerator using magnets. As cool and versatile as magnets are, they’re old news technologically speaking. The hot new trend that all the kids are into is electrostatic adhesion, and Jana Marie Hemsing has an open source PCB design so you can give it a try.
Electrostatic adhesion is the same force that makes your hair stick to a party balloon when you rub it on your head. In that classic parlor trick, the static is built up through friction. But, static can also be created with high voltage electricity. Hemsing's design takes advantage of that fact to provide on-demand electro-adhesion that can be used to create a weak clamping force, but one that is strong enough to hold up a piece of paper.
Hemsing's design is a simple and inexpensive PCB that’s built to handle the very high voltages necessary to create electro-adhesion, which is upwards of 500V DC. The back of the PCB has a Cockcroft-Walton voltage multiplier to generate that. The current is low, but there is still obviously a lot of potential danger if you do it wrong, so be careful. Each PCB is 100 x 100 mm, but they’re designed so that they can be soldered together to form a much larger panel. If you want to ditch the magnets and experiment with electro-adhesion, this is a great way to do it!