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Corona Points Discharge Current Measurement on Atmospheric Electric Field

Luis Forero, Juan Chavarro, Rafael Valenzuela, Francisco Romn*


Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Ciudad Universitaria, Edificio 411, Bogot D.C., Colombia
*
E-mail: fjromanc@unal.edu.co

Abstract: Under natural fair weather conditions, the


electric field amplitude is positive -the earth surface is
negative-, with circa 100 V/m. This natural electric field
polarity changes with the presence of thunderstorm
clouds. 5 to 10 kV could be the background electric
field magnitude at ground level, under bad weather thunderstorm- conditions. Its polarity is usually negative
-the earth is positive-, depending on the cloud electrical
charge polarity. This natural electric field can be
amplified by low curvature radius objects such as
needles, cactus like-electrodes or Franklin rods. The
electric field amplification at such low curvature objects
produces the so called point discharge currents. In the
present research work we investigate the point discharge
currents produced by cactus-like objects. These current
measurements are important to understand the operation
and protection principles given by such devices under
bad weather natural atmospherical conditions.
Measurements were performed at 2600 m above sea
level, in Bogot, Colombia (4 36' N, 74 5' W). In this
research work we also investigate the polarity,
magnitude and shape of the Corona discharge currents
produced in two different electrode types. The influence
of some atmospherical conditions on the point discharge
current variation, such as atmospheric pressure, relative
humidity and temperature was also investigated.
Keywords: Natural electric field, Franklin rods, current
measurements, natural atmospheric conditions.
INTRODUCTION
In the present research work two prototypes of
electrodes were developed to study the possibility to
extract usable energy from the electric field, as it was
suggested by Romn [1].
The studied electrodes were a cactus-like electrode
called C-Electrode and a plate electrode with needles
called P-Electrode. Designs were theoretically
supported by the works [2-5]. Additionally a small
weather station was designed and constructed. The
registered variables were: environmental temperature,
atmospheric pressure, relative humidity and C and PElectrode currents. The sampling rate was 3 s, enough
to characterize the point discharge currents DC current
component.
Initial measurements show a close relationship between
some of the measured atmospherical variables and point
discharge currents.

ELECTRODE SYSTEM
C-Electrode
The geometry of C-Electrode is based on previous
laboratory test performed by [4] and [5]. Some
characteristics of C-Electrode are shown in Fig.1.

Fig.1 Design planes and assembly picture of CElectrode, (a) Top view, notice that needles are turned
/4 rad, (b) needles detail (c), Front view, notice the
needles inclination on the z axis, (d) and (e) assembly
picture. Notice the rain water protection.
C-Electrode consists on a bronze rod of 14,3 mm
diameter and 2,3 m length, finished on a needle tip, with
100 steel needles placed around as can be seen in Fig.1.
4 needles were placed around the electrode each 0,04 m,
turned /4 rad on the horizontal plane and inclined /4
rad in z axis, as it is shown in Fig.1 (a) and (c).
Additionally the C-Electrode assembly has a water rain
protection (see Fig.1 (e)), in order to avoiding possible
unexpected electrode-support contacts (the support is
electrically connected to earth).
P-Electrode
The P-Electrode is a plate with 82 needles, with the
same dimensions that those on C-Electrode. The
minimum distance between needles is 100 mm to avoid
shielding effects between them [5]. Design and
assembly are shown in Fig.2.

I corona [mA]

1,0

LABORATORY TESTS
C- and P- Electrodes laboratory tests were performed in
order to characterize their corona current.
C-Electrode
In this test C-Electrode was placed (without support, as
it is shown in Fig.3) within a cylinder, with dimensions
= 0,50 m and l = 1 m, with purpose to simulate quasihomogenous electric field conditions in a coaxial
arrangement. The number of needles were 100, 50 and
25, to evaluate the shielding effect between them. Test
was performance for a background electric field varying
within 13,2 kV/m and 140 kV/m. Background electric
field is defined here as applied voltage divided by
cylinder interelectrode distance. Fig.3 shows the
schematic circuit and the arrangement test.

Fig.3 C-Electrode characterization. Test circuit: (1)


High Voltage source, from 3,2 kV to 34 kV, (2) CElectrode in coaxial cylinder arrangement, (3)
measuring system composed of a measuring resistance
(10 k), a coaxial cable RG 58 and a oscilloscope.
As it is indicated in Fig.4, there is no a linear relation
between the number of needles and the measured corona
current, for the same background electric field: The
current measured with 100 needles is neither 4 times the
current measured with 25 needles nor twice as large as
the current measured with 50 needles. This could
indicate a shielding effect between needles. However, in
all cases the largest current measured was with 100
needles. For this reason the assembly with 100 needles
was used in the here described point discharge current
experiment.

100 needles
50 needles
25 needles

0,6
0,4
0,2
0,0
0

20

40

60

80

100

120

140

Backgraund Electric Field [kV/m]

Fig.4 C-Electrodes corona current as a function of the


background electric field and the number of needles.
Notice that in all cases the electrode with 100 needles
produced the largest corona current.
P-Electrode
Two goals were follow in present experiment: The first
one was to measure the current produced by the
complete assembly with 82 needles and the second was
to test if the variation of the series connected resistor
between 100 k and 1 M would affect or not the
current measuring system.

Fig.5 P-Electrode characterization. Test circuit: (1)


High Voltage source, from -15 kV to -45 kV, (2) PElectrode assembly, (3) Measuring system, composed
by: A variable resistance (between 100 k and 1 M),
a coaxial cable RG 58 and a multimeter.
The distance between the high voltage plate electrode
and the P-Electrode was 1,35 m.
0
-1

I corona [uA]

(a)
(b)
Fig.2 (a) P-Electrode design. Notice 4 orthogonal
perforations for the supports and another central
perforation for the measurement signal, (b) assembly
picture, P-Electrode is placed 0,80 m over the building
ceiling level (10,5 m).

0,8

-2
Rs = 1M
Rs = 100 k
-3
-4
-5
-35

-30

-25

-20

-15

-10

-5

Background Electric Field [kV/m]

Fig.6 P-Electrodes corona currents as a function of the


background electric field. Notice the independence of
the measured corona current of the series resistance.
As it can be seen in Fig.6, test results have shown that
the measured corona current was independent of the
measuring series resistance. 100 k and 1 M were
tested.

SPACE CONSIDERATIONS
The electrodes were located at 10,5 m over floor level
on the building 411 of the National University of
Colombia in Bogot D.C. (4 36' N, 74 5' W) at 2600
meters over sea level.

Fig.9 Electric filed simulation for P-Electrode, on the


top of the university building, frontal view. Notice the
background electric field intensification over PElectrode and its edges.
MEASURING SYSTEM

Fig.7 Schematic diagram of corona electrodes and the


weather station. All variables are stored on a PC.
Before the corona electrodes were installed, a finite
element simulation with the 3D software ANSYS was
performed. The purpose was to estimate the
atmospherical electric field amplification due the
building and the electrodes geometry. Results have
shown that the background electric field was 4 times
amplified due to the building itself. A simulation with
the electrodes placed on their final position (without
considering the needles), has show that the background
electric field was circa 130 times amplified around CElectrode (see Fig.8), while for P-Electrode, the
amplification was just 15 times (see Fig.9). All
simulations were performed with a background electric
field.

Fig.8 Numerical simulation of the university building


with C-Electrode, placed on its corner. Notice the
background electric field intensification on the upper
part of the rod.

The measuring system registered following variables:


Environmental temperature, atmospherical pressure and
relative humidity, the corona currents from C- and Pelectrodes (Ic = Corona current from C-Electrode, Ip =
Corona current from P-Electrode). These variables
were measured continuously every 3 s. The measuring
system was divided in two parts: The first one considers
the sensors and the signal conditioning and the second
one the signal register. The data was registered on the
PIC16F877-4 card (8 bits, 5 channels), through the
interface port MAX232 (RS232 port driver). The
software support was made in Visual Basic and the data
was recorded on Microsoft Excel. The card input data
was filtered to reject noise with a 470 pF capacitor.
Environmental temperature measurement
Environmental temperature was measured with the
sensor LM335, which has a 3 s response time (the
device spends 15 s to arrive to the true value). Under
atmospherical conditions (airflows and humidity
variations) together with the register system, the sensor
typical error is 1,3 %.
Equation (1) is the calibration result of the
environmental temperature T measuring system:
Vs = 10 mVT -1[K] [V]
(1)
Where: Vs is the voltage measured as a function of
environmental temperature.
The schematic circuit implemented to measure
environmental temperature measurements is shown in
Fig.10.

Fig.10 Environmental temperature measuring system


schematic circuit. The sensor is exposed to
environmental conditions and the measured data is
recorded on register channel 1.

Atmospherical Pressure Measurement


Atmospherical pressure was measured with the sensor
MPX115A, which has a 1 ms response time, and
including the measuring system its typical error is 1,5%.
Equation (2) is the calibration result of the
atmospherical pressure P measuring system:
Vs = 0,045P[kPa]-0,484 [V]
(2)
Where: Vs is the voltage measured as a function of
atmospherical pressure P.
The schematic circuit implemented to measure
atmospheric pressure is shown in Fig.11.

Fig.11 Atmospherical pressure measuring system


schematic circuit. The sensor is exposed to
environmental conditions and the measured data is
recorded on register channel 2.
Relative Humidity measurement
Relative humidity was measured with the sensor
HIH3610, which spends 15 s to arrive to the true value,
and including the measuring system its typical error is
3%. Equation (3) is the relative humidity HR calibration
result:
Vs = 0,032HR [%] +0,814 [V]
(3)
Where: Vs is the voltage measured as a function of HR.
The schematic circuit implemented to measure relative
humidity is shown in Fig.12.

implemented for the corona currents measurement is


shown in Fig.13.

Fig.13 Corona currents measuring system schematic


circuit. In the figure: (1) Resistance arrangement: 100,
20, 10 and 1 M, 1 F capacitor as high frequency
filter and a gas discharge -300 V-, (2) Amplifier G = 10
(Zin = 1T 12 pF), (3) 1 V adder circuit, (4) register
system PIC16F877-port RS232-PC-user.
OBSERVATIONS AND MEASUREMENTS
From the performed measurements it was evident that
there exist a close correlation between the atmospheric
variables and the corona currents behavior. C-Electrode
is noticeable, as it can be seen in Figs.14-17.
The results have shown that C-Electrode corona current
precedes 20 and 30 minutes important environmental
temperature (see Fig.14) and atmospherical pressurechanges (see Fig.15). The recorded values were
observed during important relative humidity variations
(20 % - 100%). It is possible that the mentioned changes
are due to the proximity of a electrically charged cloud,
which is a risk for the some human activities. In other
words, C-Electrode is susceptible to be calibrate and to
work as early warning system.

Fig.12 Relative humidity measuring systems schematic


circuit. The sensor is exposed to the environmental
conditions and its response is recorded by register
system channel 3.
Current measurement
Current was measured as a voltage drop on a high value
resistance. The circuit implemented has a commonmode impedance and rejection equal to 1 T 12 pF
and 100 dB, respectively, and gain (G) equal to 10. In
addition a resistance arrangement was constructed in
order to change the measuring scale. The current
measuring circuit is shown in Fig.13 (same for both
electrodes).
Additionally the circuit has an adder between amplifier
and register system, in order to compensate the own DC
voltage of the registry system. This voltage level was
compensated during the performed measuring system
calibration
procedure.
The
schematic
circuit

Fig.14 Measured corona currents for C-Electrode (Ic


curve) and P-Electrode (Ip curve), environmental
temperature (T curve) measured on 2005-04-11. Notice
that almost 30 minutes before of the first important
temperature increase, Ic increased to important values.
The same behaviour was observed two times later.

CONCLUSIONS
(1) Two different corona electrodes were developed: A
cactus-like electrode and a plate with needles. Both
electrode types were tested and corona currents were
measured. Higher corona current were obtained with CElectrode than with P-Electrode.

Fig.15 Measured corona currents for C-Electrode (Ic


curve) and P-Electrode (Ip curve), atmospherical
pressure (Patm curve) measured on 2005-04-11. As it is
shown in Fig.14 current Ic precedes the first increase of
atmospherical pressure almost 30 minutes.

(2). In an initial approach, there are a close relation


between corona currents and some atmospheric
parameters, such as pressure and temperature. The
correlation between these parameters will be studied in
future studies.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Authors would like to thank Universidad Nacional de
Colombia and COLCIENCIAS for supporting present
investigation.

REFERENCES

Fig.16 Measured corona currents for C-Electrode (Ic


curve) and P-Electrode (Ip curve), relative humidity
(RH curve) measured on 2005-04-11. Notice that there
is no a clear correlation between corona currents and
relative humidity.

[1] Romn, F. Effects of Electric Field Impulses


Produced by Electrically Floating Electrodes on the
Corona Space Charge Generation and the Breakdown
Voltage of complex Gaps. Acta Universitatis
Upsaliensis. Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala
Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and
Technology 246. 36 pp. Uppsala. ISBN 91-554-3882-2.
Sweden, 1996.
[2] Arvalo, L., Daz, O. Estudio de la fsica del efecto
corona para diferentes configuraciones de electrodos en
un arreglo de cilindros coaxiales. Department of
Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Universidad
Nacional de Colombia. Bogot D.C., Agosto 2002.
[3] Gmez, C., Lpez, H. Caracterizacin de la
corriente Corona acumulativa producida por Electrodos
hiperboloides en una Configuracin de cilindros
coaxiales. Department of Electrical and Electronic
Engineering. Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
Bogot D.C., 2003.

Fig.17 Measured corona currents for C-Electrode (Ic


curve) and P-Electrode (Ip curve), environmental
temperature (T curve), atmospherical pressure (Patm
curve) and relative humidity (RH curve), measured on
2005-04-11. Notice a possible correlation between the
three atmospherical variables: Temperature, Pressure
point discharge current in the C-Electrode.
The collected data in both dry- and rainy-days have
shown that by strong rain, corona currents decrease.
Additionally when cloud-to-ground lightning appear,
fast polarity changes have been observed.

[4] Aubrecht, L., Pekarek, S., Koller, J., Stanek, Z.,


Multineedle-to-plane Corona Discharge, Department
of Physics Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Czech
Technical University. Prague, 2000.
[5] Osorio, G., Rosero, R. Disminucin del campo
elctrico de inicio del efecto corona mediante la
utilizacin de distintas configuraciones de electrodos
basados en las formas de la naturaleza, Department of
Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Universidad
Nacional de Colombia, Bogot D.C., 2003.