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Because of the excellent high insulation performance, vacuum is expected to be one of the
alternatives of SF6 gas. In order to reduce the use of SF6 gas in substation equipment, the
applicability of vacuum circuit breakers (VCB) and vacuum interrupters (VI) should be
extended to higher (typically 145-300 kV) voltage. For the high voltage VI, the role of
electrical insulation design becomes more important. For accurate insulation design of the
VI, we developed an optimization technique to improve the electrical insulation
performance. We evaluated several design variables necessary for optimizing the electrode
contour of the main contactor and center shield in VI. The electrode area effect on vacuum
breakdown characteristics as well as the electric field distribution was considered in the
optimization process. In order to verify the accuracy and the efficiency of the proposed
technique, we applied it to a practical model of VI. In addition, we examined the influence
of the parameters of the area effect, arrangement of VI in VCB on the optimization result.
From the calculation results, we confirmed that the optimization based on the area effect
had higher availability and higher accuracy than the electric field optimization from the
viewpoint of the improvement of the electrical insulation performance of vacuum insulated
equipment. Simulation was done with the help of a MAXWELL 2D version 9.6SV


Because of the global environment problem of SF6 gas, vacuum is widely considered as
one of the main candidates to replace SF6 gas for electrical insulation in power systems.
Because of excellent features like less environmental impact, ease of maintenance,
compact size, etc., the vacuum insulated equipment like vacuum interrupters (VI) and
vacuum circuit breakers (VCB) are extensively utilized in the voltage range up to 84 kV, so
far. The vacuum insulation systems are now expected to be developed at higher voltage
range while keeping their attractive features. For insulation design of power equipment,
numerical field calculation techniques have been widely applied as a computer aided tool.
The electric field optimization of electrode contour aiming to suppress the maximum field
strength was developed for improving the insulation performance. However, in vacuum, it
may become insufficient to apply the electric field optimization because many factors like
stressed electrode area, conditioning process and surface treatment as well as the electric
field distribution strongly affect the electrical insulation performance. Furthermore, the
surface flashover along the solid insulator should also be taken into account. From these
backgrounds, we have to develop the optimization technique for more accurate insulation
design of vacuum interrupter. In the optimization, we should take not only the electric field
distribution but also the influential factors above mentioned into account. In this paper, we
describe a numerical optimization of a high voltage electrode contour in vacuum
interrupter. The electrode area effect on vacuum breakdown characteristics was introduced
to the optimization process. In order to verify the accuracy and the efficiency of the
optimization technique, we carried out the optimization of several design variables, such as
the electrode contour of the main contactor, center shield electrode and the arrangement of
the electrode in the VI. We compared the results by the proposed optimization and the
conventional electric field optimization. In addition, we examined the influence of the
change of the specific curve of the area effect on the optimization result. From the
calculation results, we confirmed that the new optimization method had higher availability
and higher accuracy than the electric field optimization for the improvement of the
electrical insulation performance.


Figure 1 shows the basic principle of electrical insulation design of VI. We have to
consider the insulation design components like these;

(A) Insulation between main contactor electrodes,

(B) Insulation between main contactor and center shield electrodes
(C) Insulation along insulator surface
(D) Outer insulation
Especially, the main contactor insulation and insulation for center shield are important for
determining the fundamental insulation property of VI. The target of this paper is to obtain
the optimum design variables and to describe the factors determining the optimum values,
through the electric field calculation and optimization procedures. We chose the design
variables to be optimized. In Figure 1, design variables are shown;
(a) contactor electrode contour on the moving electrode side,
(b) length of the moving rod and the stationary rod electrodes,
(c) contour of the center shield terminal.

Figure 1. Basic principle of insulation design of VI.

(A) Insulation between main

Design variables optimized

(a) Contour of contactor electrode

(B) Insulation of rod to shield


Figure 2 shows the potential and electric field distributions in the calculation model of VI.
The calculation was carried out under the conditions of 100% potential to the moving rod
electrode and earthed to the stationary rod electrode. The center shield electrode had
floating potential. The dielectric permittivity of alumina insulator was set to 9.0. The

maximum field was obtained at the edge of the main contactor. We firstly should reduce
the maximum field strength with taking into the area effect of breakdown strength into
As mentioned above, we should note that reducing the maximum field strength is not
always sufficient in a vacuum. In this paper, we introduce the electrode area effect into the
optimization as the first stage of the development of the insulation optimization technique.
For electrical insulation design at the scale of practical equipment, the electrode area effect
is one of the most important factors in a vacuum. It is known that the breakdown field
strength in a vacuum decreases statistically with increasing the stressed electrode area. A
specific curve on the area effect is systematically approximated from many plots obtained
experimentally with various types of electrode configurations. The relationship between
stressed electrode area Se and breakdown field strength Ebd was formulated as the
following equation,
Ebd=KsSe-1/m (1)
where Ks is a constant and m is a parameter which becomes small with increasing
dependence of breakdown field strength on the electrode area. We generally use Se as the
field region whose field strength is more than 90% of the maximum field strength.
Equation (1) clearly indicates that the increase of the stressed area may contribute to a
reduction of the dielectric strength. For copper cathode electrode under switching impulse
voltage application, the values Ks=380 and m=4.4 were obtained and we use these values
here. The concept of the optimization is shown in Figure 3. In the process of optimization
in Figure 3a, let us suppose that we modify the high voltage electrode contour from A to D.
Here, the maximum electric field strength is reduced, but at the same time the stressed
electrode area will be enlarged. Plots in Figure 3b show the relationship between electrode
areas and the maximum field strengths in the optimization process, together with the
specific curve of the area effect. If the electric field optimization is applied, we will finally
obtain the contour D as the optimized one because the maximum field strength is most
reduced. However, the electric field optimization may cause an increase in the electrode
area which results in a reduction of breakdown field strength. Therefore, from the
viewpoint of the best performance of electrical insulation, we should regard the contour C

as the optimized contour instead of D. From this optimization concept, we define a

parameter P as follows,
P=(Em/Emi)/(Se/Sei)-1/m (2)
where Em is the maximum electric field, Emi the initial Em, Sei the initial Se. From
equation (2), we can easily understand that the insulation optimization results in finding the
smallest value of the parameter P in the process of changing the electrode contour. Based
on the above concept, we construct a flowchart for the insulation optimization technique in
Figure 4. In the optimization process, we modify the electrode contour in accordance with
the electric field distribution, that is, the difference Dm between the target value of field
strength Etarget and the present electric field distribution E on the electrode contour
determines the amount of contour modification [4]. If the value of parameter P is reduced
by modifying the electrode contour, the calculation continues. Otherwise, when the value
of parameter P is increased by modifying the electrode contour, the amount of the
modification is reduced.

Fig 2.Change of electrode area by electrode contour modification

Fig 3.Relationship between stressed electrode area, maximum electric field and
breakdown field strength


Equipotential lines in electrode A

Equipotential lines in electrode B


Equipotential lines in electrode C

Equipotential lines in electrode D


Equipotential lines in selected electrode without shielding


Electrical field distribution for without shielding


Equipotential lines in selected electrode with shielding


Electrical field distribution for with shielding



By the electric field optimization, the maximum field strength

decreased to 68% of the initial value. Furthermore, the electric field on
the optimized contour became uniform. However, this optimization did
not raise the breakdown voltage.
We got the slightly different electrode contour between by the
electric field optimization and by electrical insulation optimization. The
insulation optimization result had smaller area and larger maximum field
strength than the electric field optimization one. The electric field
distribution by the insulation optimization resulted in being well



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