The Science Behind Water Damage
Mallory McGuinness | February 26, 2021
It’s no secret that water and electronic devices don’t mix; water damage happens to us all. If you have ever dropped your iPhone into the toilet, or knocked over your favorite beverage and watched as that tidal wave of liquid crashed over your precious Galaxy S3, then you know exactly what I am talking about.
We all know that water damage is a bad thing, but what most people don’t understand is why? We are here to bring you the science behind water damage, and help you understand why your expensive devices cease to function when they come in contact with the most abundant substance on the planet.
The 2 Main Electronic Failures: Short-Circuiting and Corrosion
There are two common ways phones fail due to water damage: short-circuiting and corrosion.
When you drop your phone in water, and it is no longer functioning when you pull it out, this is because while your phone was submerged, the water completed one of the many integrated circuits on your phone, both positive and negative sides, causing vital components in your phone to overload and fail due to the high amount of current passing through them at the time of connection. This isn’t something that you can physically see happen, or see to correct, making it a very difficult problem to correct without the proper tools, equipment, or expertise.
Does The Water Damage Happen Immediately?
Unfortunately yes, if water gets into your PCB then the damage takes place immediately and isn’t usually something you can fix on your own.
2. Corrosion Damage
If your device was working just fine when you rescued it from its potential watery grave, only to have it die hours, or even days later, then you are probably looking at some sort of corrosion damage. The most common form of corrosion you see is rust, which is a reaction between metal, salt, oxygen, and water. Have you ever looked at an old battery and seen that crusty, green substance forming between it and whatever it’s connected to? That’s corrosion, and it can certainly incapacitate your phone if it isn’t completely dried out after getting wet. Sometimes corrosion can be scraped off of certain parts of electronic devices, returning them to normal, but sometimes you can’t get to the affected area… and then you are just plain out of luck.
In our next article, we will discuss some of the strange tricks people try when attempting to save their devices from their watery graves, and the science behind their reputations for success. Until then—watch out for water damage!
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