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XVII International Symposium on High Voltage Engineering, Hannover, Germany, August 22-26, 2011

MEASUREMENT OF ELECTRIC FIELD IN A ROD PLANE


CONFIGURATION USING THE CAPACITIVE PROBE WITH OPTICAL
FIBER: VERTICAL ROD INSERTION EFFECT
1*

D. Khelil , S. Bouazabia , N. Harid and A. Haddad


University of Sciences and Technology, USTHB, BP 32, EL Alia, Bab Ezzouar, Algeria
2
School of Engineering, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
*Email: <khelil_djazia@yahoo.fr>

Abstract: In this paper, the electric field distribution on the ground surface in a rod-plane
configuration is measured using a purpose-built capacitive probe for alternating and
lightning impulse voltage types of different amplitudes. The influence of a vertical rod
attached to the grounded plane on the field distribution over the plane surface is
investigated. The electric field distribution is computed for the tested configuration using
the finite element method, and the results are compared with measurements. It is shown
that the experimental results confirm some physical observations under lightning
discharges. The computed electric field results compared well with those obtained
experimentally for alternating voltage. However, for lightning impulse voltage, due to the
effect of space charge, the difference between measurement and simulation results is
more pronounced as the voltage magnitude increases.
1

INTRODUCTION

Lightning can cause extensive damage to


structures and electrical installations if they are not
properly protected.
Addition, to being a danger to humans and
animals, lightning causes widespread destruction
of electrical and electronic, industrial and domestic
equipment. The transmission and distribution of
electricity have been hit by a large number of
lightning strikes, which can cause interruption of
supply and irreversible damage to key equipment
[1 -4]. To address these dangers, it is necessary to
achieve adequate protection. Proper design and
installation of lightning protection systems helps in
reducing the threat caused by lightning flashes.
Current design practice of such systems is mainly
based on the electro-geometrical model and the
shielding angle model, which define protection
zones around structures. International standards
provide measures for protection of structures and
their installations and contents using these models
[5]. However, to achieve an accurate and reliable
design, a good understanding of the lightning
physical phenomena is needed. A substantial
amount of research has been carried out by many
researchers on the physics of lightning discharge
and lightning attachment to grounded structures [68]. One of the important parameters governing
the inception and progression of upward streamers
during the development of downward stepped
leaders is the ambient electric field near the tip of
grounded structures. Measuring the electric field at
ground level and in the presence of sharp vertical
objects may help clarify the mechanisms of the
streamer and leader formation from such objects.

In this paper, the results of experimental tests to


measure the electric field on the ground surface
are reported for a rod-plane electrode system. This
geometry is common for simulating the
development and progression of a lightning
discharge. AC and impulse voltages of both
polarities and at different voltage levels were used.
The influence of the presence of a vertical rod
simulating a lightning protection rod on the field
distribution is also discussed.
Finally, experimental results are compared with
those computed using the finite element method.
2

EXPERIMENTAL SET_UP

The test circuit is shown in Figure 1 (a). Two


generators were used. The first is an impulse one
delivering 1.2/50 impulse voltages of up to 300kV
and the second is an alternative transformer
delivering AC voltage of up to 300 kV. The
generator is connected to a point electrode. A
capacitive voltage divider is used for measuring the
impulse voltage signal using a digital oscilloscope.
The test object (Figure 1(b)) consists of a highvoltage rod electrode simulating the head of the
leader, situated at a distance 'd from a square
plane electrode, of length l, representing the
ground. A vertical rod simulating a lightning rod is
placed on the plane and can be moved laterally.
Both lightning rod and plane are grounded.
To measure electric field on the ground, a
capacitive probe with optical transmission,
previously calibrated [9] is used. This probe
consists of a circular sensing electrode of 10 cm
diameter surrounded by a guard ring of 30 cm
outer diameter. The measuring device is placed at
height 'e' from the plane electrode.

XVII International Symposium on High Voltage Engineering, Hannover, Germany, August 22-26, 2011

The electric field measurement is based on the


capacitive probe method, where a charge Q is
collected on the capture electrode through a
capacitor. The induced charge on the probe
surface gives a proportional signal to the electric
field intensity.
4
2

The application of a voltage (V) at the point


electrode generates in the output of the probe a
voltage signal (Vout) of the same shape and
reduced amplitude (Figures 2-4). The probe has
been calibrated and its frequency response is
limited only by the electronic components of the
signal conditioning circuit. It is noted, however, the
presence of high-frequency noise on the rising
front of the measured probe signals (Figure 3 and
4).
3
v

2
Voltage (V)

Vout

1
0
-1
-2

-3
0

0.01

0.02

1 Control panel; 2 Circuit breaker; 3 AC or impulse


Generator; 4 Capacitive divider; 5 test object; 6
Digital oscilloscope.

0.03
Time (s)

0.04

0.06

Figure 2. Measured applied voltage and probe


output under AC voltage.
3

V o lta g e (V )

Figure 1 (a). Measurement circuit.

0.05

v
Vout

0
-1
0

3
Time (s)

6
-4

x 10

Figure 3. Measured applied voltage and probe


output under positive impulse voltage.
1
V
0.8
Vout
0.6

V o lt a g e ( V )

0.4

0.2

-0.2

-0.4

-0.6

-0.8

Figure 1(b). Test object: Point-plane electrode


system with capacitive probe.
3

FIELD DISTRIBUTION AT THE GROUND


PLANE

For all tests the distance between electrodes is set


to d = 97 cm and 107 cm. The field distribution is
determined along the horizontal line located at e =
3 cm from the plane (244 cm 123 cm for lightning
impulse voltage and 200 cm 200 cm for AC
voltage), by moving the probe over the line at
intervals of 10 cm.

0.2

0.4

0.6

Time (s)

0.8

1.2
-4

x 10

Figure 4. Measured applied voltage and probe


output under negative impulse voltage.
Measurement of electric field along the plane
(Figures 5-7) shows that as expected, the field is
highest below the rod electrode and tends to
decrease away from it. Note also that,
independently of the applied voltage type, the field
increases as the voltage raises thus justifying that
the electric field value at ground is proportional to
the quantity of charge contained in the leader [1011]. In addition, this increase is almost linear for all
applied voltage levels.

18

16

16

14

14

12

12

Fie ld (kV/m )

18

10
20 kV alt

8
6

10

40 kV alt

Positive lightning
impulse

-100
-90
-80
-70
-60
-50
-40
-30
-20
-10
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100

80

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

-10

-20

-30

-40

0
-50

-60

2
-70

AC

-80

Field (kV/m)

XVII International Symposium on High Voltage Engineering, Hannover, Germany, August 22-26, 2011

probe position (cm)

Probe position (cm)

Figure 5. Field distribution on the ground for AC


voltage.

Figure 8. Field distribution on the ground in AC and


positive lightning impulse (V = 40 kV and d = 107
cm).

9
8

Field (kV/m)

7
6

20 kV-

10 kV-

4
3
2

Figure 9 shows the field distribution measured


under AC voltage for two different inter-electrode
distances. When the distance between electrodes
decreases, the field intensity becomes higher at
the ground plane. The field increase could be
explained by the high probability of space charge
existence in the point- plane air gap [10].

1
0

18

-100

-80

-60

-40

-20

20

40

16

Probe position (cm)


Field (KV /m)

14

Figure 6. Field distribution on the ground for


negative lightning impulse.

12
10
8

d=97 cm

d=107 cm

35

30

-80
-70
-60
-50
-40
-30
-20
-10
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80

Field (kV/m)

25

Probe position (cm)

20
40 kV+

15

75 kV+

10
5

Figure 9. AC field distribution in ground for two


inter-electrode distances (V = 40 kV).
4

EFFECT OF VERTICAL ROD

0
-100 -80

-60 -40

-20

20

40

60

80

100

Probe position (cm)

Figure 7. Field distribution on the ground for


positive lightning impulse.
Comparison between the field distribution in
ground with AC and impulse voltages, Figure 8
shows that the field obtained with positive lightning
impulse is more important. This result is in
agreement with physical observations. Indeed,
several studies show that breakdown occurs for
lower voltages in positive polarity [12]. The
difference is due to the fact that for this type of
voltage electrons are moving in a field of
increasing intensity [13].

To study the lightning rod insertion effect on the


ground electric field distribution, a 70 cm rod is
inserted at 30 cm from the vertical axis of
symmetry of the electrode system. As can be seen
in Figure 10, the presence of lightning rod
decreases significantly the electric field in its
vicinity. This is due to the attractive effect of field
lines caused by the rod [1-3]. However, the rod has
less influence on the field magnitude far from the
lightning rod, limiting its protecting zone to a given
area.

XVII International Symposium on High Voltage Engineering, Hannover, Germany, August 22-26, 2011

12

F ie ld (k V / m )

10
Field (kV /m )

8
6
4
Without L R

20 kV simulated
40 kV measured
40 kV simulated

-8 0
-7 0
-6 0
-5 0
-4 0
-3 0
-2 0
-1 0
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80

With L R

20 kV measured

18
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0

0
-80
-70
-60
-50
-40
-30
-20
-10
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80

Probe position (cm)

Probe position (cm)

Figure 10. AC field distribution on the ground with


and without insertion of vertical rod (V= 40 kV d =
107 cm).

Figure 12. Comparison between experimental


curves and those simulated for AC.
40 kV measured

35

COMPUTED FIELD DISTRIBUTION


F ie ld (k V / m )

The computation of the electric field for the same


electrode configuration has been carried out using
the finite element method. The computer code
FEMM [14] is used and experimental results are
compared with those obtained by simulation.

30

40 kV simulated

25

75 kV measured

20

75 kV simulated

15
10
5

7
6
5

10 kV measured

4
3
2

10 kV simulated

1
0

20 kV simulated

20 kV measured

-1 0 0
-9 0
-8 0
-7 0
-6 0
-5 0
-4 0
-3 0
-2 0
-1 0
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100

F ie ld (k V / m )

9
8

Probe position (cm)

Figure 11. Comparison between experimental


curves and those simulated for negative lightning
impulse.

-1 0 0
-9 0
-8 0
-7 0
-6 0
-5 0
-4 0
-3 0
-2 0
-1 0
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100

The simulation results under AC conditions


coincide with those obtained experimentally
(Figure 12) for both applied voltage levels.
However, the simulation results under lightning
impulse conditions deviate from those obtained
experimentally (Figure 11 and 13). This difference
is more pronounced below the rod electrode and
when the voltage level increases. This could be
due to the space charge not taken into account in
the computation program.

Probe position (cm)

Figure 13. Comparison between experimental


curves and those simulated for positive lightning
impulse.
6

CONCLUSION

The electric field distribution over the ground plane


of a rod-plane configuration has been measured
using a fast-response capacitive probe under AC
and impulse voltages of both polarities. The effect
of the inter-electrode distance and the presence of
a vertical rod at the ground plane on the field
distribution was clarified. The results confirmed the
validity of the probe for this type of measurement.
It was noted that the electric field intensity is
highest below the high-voltage electrode and tends
to decrease away from it. Its intensity increases
when the applied voltage increase proving that the
field strength is proportional to the quantity of
charge contained in the leader.
The ground field is more intense under positive
polarity impulse, due to the fact that electrons are
moving in a field of increasing intensity for this type
of voltage. The lightning rod has an attractive
effect on field lines. Its efficiency decreases as
move away from the vertical line under the highvoltage electrode.

XVII International Symposium on High Voltage Engineering, Hannover, Germany, August 22-26, 2011

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