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Bibliotheek TU Delft

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C 8003814078

Industrial High De Voltage
1. Fields
2. Break downs
3. Tests
Industrial High De Voltage
1. Fields
2. Breakdowns
3. Tests

F.H. Kreuger

Delft Uni versity Press / 1995

Published and disiribuied by:

Delft University Press

Stevinweg 1
2628 CN Delft
The Netherlands
Telephone + 31 15 2 783254
Fax + 31 15 2 781661

This book is based on the lectures of F.H. Kreuger at the

Delft University of Technology

Cover desgin by the author


Kreuger, F.H.
Industrial high DC voltage: 1. fields, 2. breakdowns, 3. tests!
F.H. Kreuger. - Delft: Delft University Press. - TIL
ISBN 90-407-1110-0
Subject heading: elektrotechniek

Copyright by F.H. Kreuger

All rights reserved.

No part of the material by this copyright notice may be reproduced
or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanica1/
inc1uding photocopying, recording or by any information storage and
retrieval system without permission from the publisher: Delft
University Press, Stevinweg 1/ 2628 CN Delft, The Netherlands.

Printed in The Netherlands.


This study is based on resear ch work that has been perfor med at
Delft Unive rsity of Technology, the Nethe rlands . It makes use of
work of my Ph .D. studen ts, in the first place of those who specifically
worke d with DC insula tion:

T. Jing Surface charge s

D.Pro mm DC testing
M. Jeroen se DC cables

and furthe rmore of those who worke d on related subjects:

P.H.F. Morsh uis Discharge physic s

E. Gulsk i Discharge recogn ition
A. Krivd a Discharge recogn ition
E.P. Steenn is Water treeing [materiaIs]

I thank P.H.P. Morsh uis for his assista nce in accom plishin
g this
book and I thank Mrs. S. Noote boom for typing the text.

F.R. Kreuger

This book opens with two chapters on the complicated behaviour of

DC-relatedfields and continues with two chapters on surface charges
and space charges which affect these fields. Then three chapters are
dedicated to partial discharges and other breakdown mechanisms.
Special attention is given to voltage life curves.
With this knowledge tests and test rules are devised which serve to obtain
optimal reliability.

Chapter l. Introduction 1
Chapter 2. AC and DC fields 5
Chapter 3. Surface charges 35
Chapter 4. Space charges 55

Chapter 5. Partial dis charges, detection 89
Chapter 6. Partial discharges, physics 117
Chapter 7. Breakdown and voltage life 135

Chapter 8. Test rules 161
1 Introduetion 1
1.1 DC does not occur 1
1.2 Physical consequences 3
1.3 Applications 4

2 Electric fields 5
2.1 Transient phenomena 5
2.2 Maxwell Capacitor 8
2.3 Fields at different stages 15
2.4 Fields after polarity reversal 22
2.5 Effect of temperature and field strength 24
2.6 Some examples 26
2.7 Design 30

3 Surface charges 35
3.1 Alternative methods 35
3.2 Capacitive Probe 36
3.3 Compressed gas insulation 44
3.4 Surface charges under oil 51

4 Space charges 55
4.1 Space charge measurements 55
4.2 Voltage wave method 55
4.3 Pressure wave method 61
4.4 Space charge formation 70
4.5. Actual observations 81

5 Partial discharges, detection 89

5.1 Discharges in the capacitive stage 89
5.2 Discharges in the resistive stages 91
5.3 Discharge detection 96
5.4 Recording with AC voltage 101
5.5 Recording at DC voltage 105
5.6 Evaluation of DC discharges 106
5.7 Classification of DC discharges 110

6 Partial discharges, physics 117

6.1 Observation 117
6.2 Streamer-like dis charges 119
6.3 Townsend-like discharges 121
6.4 Pitting discharge 124
6.5 Ageing under DC conditions 127
6.6 Surface discharges 128
6.7 Corona 129

7 Breakdown and voltage life 135

7.1 Breakdown of solids 135
7.2 Breakdown of fluids 145
7.3. Breakdown along interfaces 147
7.4 Voltage life of solids 152
7.5 Voltage life of interfaces 160

8 Testing 161
8.1 Dielectric te~ts in generaI 161
8.2 Impulse tests 162
8.3 Stability tests 163
8.4 Discharge detection 165
8.5 Leakage current 169
8.6 Dielectric loss 169
8.7 Specifications 170
8.8 Survey 176

Appendix 1 Surface charges in the presence of a thermal

gradient 179

Appendix 2 Induced charge in the pressure pulse

technique 183

Appendix 3 Repetition rate of De discharges with a

residual voltage 187

Bibliography 189

Index 195
Chapter 1

Is there a need for a separate study on high voltage DC? Are the
differences between AC and DC so large that a separate volume on
DC is needed?
The answer is "yes". There are at least three differences between high
voltage AC and DC that justify a separate study:

1. DC in its pure form does not occur, or if it occurs its is rare.

2. The physical phenomena, like field configurations and
breakdown mechanisms differ considerably from those of
3. DC is used for other applications which ask for other
standards of reliability than for AC.

These three aspects are further studied below.

1.1 De does not occur

DC has always to be switched on and to be switched off. During
these switching manoeuvres the dielectric is stressed in an AC
manner with consequences for the field distribution, the breakdown
mechanisms, etc. Moreover, it takes some time before the transition to
the DC situation has been completed. This is indicated in figure lol,
where the growth of internal charges is shown as a function of time;
only af ter this growth has been saturated is a pure DC field
In many practical cases the voltage has already been switched off, or
the polarity reversed, before the saturation has set in and no DC field
occurs at all.
For AC there are only two situations: "on" and "off". For DC far
more situations exist such as:


pure De

/' -


Fig. 1.1. Switching a DC voltage on and off . The dotted line represents the growth of
internal charges. Only if th is growth has been satu rated a pure DC field is

1. Stressing at positive or at negative voltage. There are many

configurations where there is a distinct difference between
the electric fields at positive or at negative voltage. Take, for
instance, the point-to-plane configuration as shown in
volume I, pages 86 and 94 [1].
2. Polarity reversal. Residual charges may cause considerable
increases or decreases in local fields when reversing the
polarity. Further, reversal from + to - may result in other
effects than from - to +.
3. Stressing for a shorter or a longer period than the saturation
time T may result in important differences in the stress
distribution. Moreover, switching off does not directly re sult
in freedom of electric fields, it takes time before all internal
charges have disappeared.
4. Superposition with switching surges. It makes a difference
whether surges of the same or the opposite polarity are
superposed on the DC voltage, see figure 1.2.
5. In rectifier circuits, situations occur where an AC voltage is
superposed on a DC voltage. The dielectric is then stressed
with two different types of fields; both have to be analysed.
1.1. De DOES NOT occu 3


Fig. 1.2. Overvoltages when switching on a DC voltage, as weIl as external

overvoltages and their polarities, greatly affect the fields in DC insulation.

From the previous points, it follows that both the design and the
ways of testing DC constructions are greatly influenced by its actual
use, be it continuous, intermittent, with or without polarity reversals,

1.2 Physical consequences

1. The distribution of the electric field differs from that at AC.
The field distribution in DC constructions is determined by
the specific conductivity a of the materials, not by the
permittivities e as for AC. Here, surface charges and space
charges play an important role, resulting in a time-
dependent field distribution. This is discussed in chapter 2 of
this book, surface charges are discussed in chapter 3 and
space charges in chapter 4.
2. Partial discharges behave in a different way than with AC
voltage and have a different effect on ageing and
breakdown. Partial discharges and their detection with DC
voltages are discussed in chapters 5 and 6.
3. In contrast to AC, dielectric losses and their measurement (tg
8 measurement) have no meaning here. These measurements

could possibly be replaced by measure ments of leakage

4. The breakdown mechanisms in DC situations differ from AC
ones. As an example, it can be pointed out that thermal
breakdown is improbable, see for instanee volume I section
9.3 [1]. Breakdown and ageing in DC situation are studied in
chapter 7 of the present study. This leads on to proposals for
effective test procedures in chapter 8.

1.3 Applications
High voltage AC is used in electricity supply. High voltage DC is
mainly used in non-energy applications: X-ray equipment, radar,
television sets, electron microscopy, among others. There is one
notable exception i.e. the use of HVDC cab les for submarine power
transmission where large amounts of power are handled.
The understanding of dielectrics in DC lags far behind the knowledge
of the dielectric phenomena at AC voltage. This is mainly due to the
economie impact of the AC-operated electricity supply. The
consequences of a failure in an electric power system are tremendous
and high reliability and a long voltage life of its components are
absolute musts. The reliability of the components for electricity
supply, for instanee of large power transformers, is measured in
fractions of one failure per 100 component years. The voltage life
amounts to 25 years and more.
For DC applications this is another story: an X-ray apparatus is
readily replaeed after 10 years, the high voltage units of television
sets fail far more often than once per 100 component years. The only
exception is the high voltage DC cabIe, which is part of the electricity
supply system and has to perform considerably better.
This difference in attention is also found in the number of scientific
publications: in the literature, there are few publications on DC; at
high voltage conferences DC is seldom discussed (except, again,
HVDC for power transmission). This book aims at reducing this lack
of knowledge.
Chapter 2
Electric fields

2.1 Transient phenomena

When switching on or increasing a DC voltage, the dielectric is
stressed as if it were an AC voltage. A capacitive current ie runs, see
figure 2.1 whieh amounts to

. dU
lc = C dt

Af ter this, the current is expected to fall back to a small leakage

current, il in figure 2.1. But before this occurs a transient phenomenon
takes place, where a current ip occurs whieh is called "p olarisation
current" or "absorption current". This current decreases slowly and it
may take many minutes, sometimes hours (in extreme cases even
weeks) before a statie leakage current i, is established.

I ...... - - - -=--+----

Fig. 2.1. Turning on a De voltage. At first a capacitive current ie occurs, then a

polarization current i p occurs which generates internal charges in the dielectric. After
the dielectric has been stabilized a smallleakage current il remains,


During this transition, charges are built up in the dielectric, The

mechanism of this charge accumulation is not always understood, but
several mechanisms have been described which give a fair description
of the phenomena. Four of these mechanisms are discussed below.

1. In the case of very high-ohmie materiaIs, like polyethylene,

the interface between the electrode and the dielectric plays
an important role. If the electrode-interface can not convey
the charges as fast as the dielectric can conduct them, a lack
of electrons or ions appears at this interface. A layer of
charges is formed of opposite polarity; this is called the
formation of hetero charges, see figure 2.2.

Fig. 2.2. If a dielectric transports the

charges faster than the electrodes can
supply them a hetero charge is formed
near the electrodes. The opposite occurs if
the electrode supplies more charge
carriers than the dielectric can transmit
and homo charges are formed.

If the electrodes, however, yield more charges than the

dielectric can handle, the reverse situation occurs and homo
charges are formed, charges which have the same polarity as
the adjacent electrode.
Such layers of charge always increase the electric field in one
place and decrease it in another, the result being that the
breakdown strength of the dielectric is impaired.
2. In a layer-shaped dielectric, such as impregnated paper,
surface charges develop at the interfaces. From the theory of
De fields it is known that this occurs where the quotient cl a
jumps to another value, where e is the permittivity of the
dielectric and a is its conductivity.
An example is formed by oil-filled cavities in impregnated
paper, see C in figure 2.3. The surface charges decrease the

field in the oil cavity but the field strength in the paper
adjacent to the cavity is considerably increased. In the thin
oil layers between the papers, L in figure 2.3, a similar
mechanism may occur which adds to the effect.

Fig. 2.3. In the oil filled cavities C in

impregnated paper surface charges are
collected at the interfaces. The same
phenomenon may take place in the oil
layers L between the papers.

3. If an homogeneous material is filled with particles of another

dielectric structure the accumulation of surface charges
occurs in the way described above, see figure 2.4. This
applies, for instance, to machine insulation, which consists
of about 97% mica-flakes and 3% synthetic resin.

+ + Fig. 2.4. Particles in a cast-resin

insulation collect surface charges at the
interfaces where e/ p changes abruptly.

4. In constructions which consist of asolid material and a

g O'vS flu id , charge may develop at the interface between the solid
g e>-J and the Huid material. A well-known example is an
insulation of SF6 gas with epoxy resin spacers. If the voltage
is sufficiently high, a polarisation current ip starts, which
causes a surface charge Kas shown in figure 2.5.

Fig. 2.5. Field emission in gas generates

ip electrons which are collected at the

/ gas

A consequence of this phenomenon is that testing GIS (Gas Insulated

Switchgear) with DC voltage is detrimental to the operation at AC
voltage: a DC field is induced by the remaining surface charges and
adds to the AC field, either in the positive or in the negative half-
cycle, which results in a lower breakdown voltage or an increased
ageing of the dielectric. Cable circuits which enter a GIS installation
are usually tested at DC voltage before commissioning, see volume II
[2] pages 15 to 17; they must thus be separated from the GIS
installation before the DC test can be carried out.

2.2 Maxwell Capacitor

The situations above can be brought back to one common cause by
describing them as special cases of the Maxwell capacitor [3,4,7]. This
capacitor is a hypothetical configuration to describe the phenomena
at the interface between two different dielectrics, see figure 2.6. If the
actual configuration contains more than one interface (cases 1, 2 and
3 above) the situation can be seen as the series conneetion of several
Maxwell capacitors.

A Maxwell capacitor contains the following elements: two plan-

parallel electrodes, separated by two dielectric slabs of thicknesses a
and b, see figure 2.6. At time t = 0 a DC voltage U is applied. From
the laws of Maxwell and Ohm it follows that

p = VD = V'cE (Maxwell) and j = aE (Ohm)


Fig. 2.6. Maxwell capacitor to describe

the phenomena at the interface between

and from

Vj + ac:; = 0 (continuity law)

it follows that

VoE + dt VeE = O.

In a homogeneous field with a step function Erom a to b:

The voltage between electrodes is

and if we eliminate Eb in this equation:

This is a differential equation with

ti = U and ~~ = 0 for t > O.


The solution of this equation is


bEa + ab
r = bo; + aab .

This result shows the transition from the capacitive field distribution
at t = 0 to the resistive field distribution at t = 00, if t = 0 and t = 00 are
entered in the equation.
In figure 2.7, upper part, the transition of the field strength Ea in
dielectric a is shown.

_ _ _E_b_
oU Fig. 2.7. The slowly changing phenomena
in a Maxwell capacitor. Field strength Ea
in the upper slab, field strength Eb in the
lower one and the growth of the surface
charge Kat the interface.



By introducing

the transition of the field strength in section b can also be shown, see
the middle part of figure 2-.7.
The growth of the surface charge at the interface can be calculated
with the Maxwell equation

'VEE = p.
At the interface this changes into

It then follows that

This represents the gradual growth of the surface charge K: at the

interface, which is shown in the lower part of figure 2.7.

In these considerations the timeconstant Tand the surface charge xplay

an important part. These items are further studied below.

The time constant

The time constant T was found to be

In order to make an estimation of T, some simplifications can be

1. the permittivities of different materials do not differ very
much, we can assume Ca :::: Eb :::: E.

2. the conductivities, however, differ considerably; we assume

era > 10 erb "" er.
3. the dimensions of the layers are, for the time being,
supposed to be equal; that is a "" b.

It then follows

be + be E
'l'- ""2 -a Zep,
- bo + fraction

where Ps is the specific resistivity of the most conducting of the two

materials, Inserting e = Or yields:

and inserting an order of magnitude for er"" 3:

t "" 5.10-11 Ps sec.

The time constant of the transient is thus linearly proportional to the

specific resistivity Ps of the most conductive layer [3].

The above approximation is more true if the more isolating layer is

thick in comparison with the other layer: b > a.
If the more isolating layer is thin, that is, if b < a, the above
approximation is impaired. However, in actual cases, the ratio
between the conductivities of different materials amounts to many
decades, so that the above approximation maintains its validity for
quite some time.

We now enter the values of some actual cases:

for oil Ps = 2.1011 to 2.1013 Qm ~ t = 10 to 103 sec or for polymers
Ps"" 1015 Qm ~ r "" 10 hours. In the first cases it takes minutes, in the
second case hours, before the polarization phenomenon has died out
and a pure De field has been established.

The surface charge

The charge collected at the interface at the end of the transition

period is

If the conductivities of the two materials were in proportion to the

permittivities, ani a p = cal eb, then K-s would be zero and no
polarization would take place. In actual cases this never happens.
However, K-s can never re ach more than a certain value, no matter
how large the difference between the materials. This can be shown
with the assumptions made before:


In that case

Inserting CO = 8.85.10- 12 As/Vm, U in kilovolts and bin mm's yields

the value of the maximal attainable surface charge:

for every kV of applied voltage and b expressed in mmo

Consequently, the maximal attainable surface charge is independent of the
conductivity of the materials and increases with the permittivity crb of
the more isolating material of the two [3].


The considerations above can now be applied to the four cases in

section 2.1.

Case 1: insufficient charge injection by the electrodes

This insufficient injection can be represented by an increased
resistivity of the dielectric near the interface with the conductor, see r
in figure 2.2. (OBS: this assumption does not give a physical
explanation of the phenomenon, it only offers a schematic
representation of the facts). Thus two Maxwell capacitors occur, one
at the upper and one at the lower electrode. These capacitors are
coupled in series and cause together a polarization phenomenon. The
dielectrics in these capacitors have the same permittivities, but they
differ vastly in conductivity.
If we now insert polyethylene with a specific resistance of 1015 Om,
the time constant becomes about one hour. This agrees well with
measurements of polyethylene insulated OC power cables. If a high
density polyethylene (HOPE) is chosen, which has a far higher
resistivity, far longer time constants can be expected. Measurements
of HOPE confirm this, showing time constants up to 300 hours.

Case 2: layer-shaped dielectrics

The theory of the Maxwell capacitor can be applied to the oil-filled
cavities Cadjacent to the paper layers as shown in figure 2.3. The
time constant is calculated here without simplifications in the
formula, taking (Ja = 10- 15 Om-1 and (Jb = 10- 13 Om-I. The result is
then that r = 500 sec. If the same calculation is made for the thin oil-
filled layers L between the papers, the time constant becomes r = 200
sec. These time constants are quite realistic for oil-impregnated
paper. Whether polarization sterns from the oil-filled cavities or from
the oil-filled layers cannot be wen distinguished from the time
constants above. Moreover, it should be taken into account that the
conductivities (J are dependent on the field strength so that the
transition does not follow a purely exponential curve.

Case 3: Imbedded particles

The structure as shown in figure 2.5 is valid for mica flakes in an
epoxy bedding. The time constant of this dielectric is reported to be
of the order of 104 sec [7], which ag rees with a specific resistivity of
epoxy of about 1015 Om.

Case 4: Epoxy spaeer in 5f6 gas

In this situation, see figure 2.4, field emission takes pl ace at the
cathode if a certain threshold voltage is passed. This can be seen as a
greatly increased conductivity of the SF6gas.
In actual cases a time constant of 1 to 2 hours is observed. When
switching off, ho wever, another situation occurs: the gas na langer
conducts and the time constant for charge decay increases to a week
or more. The surface charge for Er = 4 for epoxy and at 100 kV DC
test voltage can be calculated to be maximal 40 JlC/m2 . In actual
cases somewhat lower values have been measured [4]. This is
connected with the fact that the epoxy surface is not perpendicular
to the field and that the surface charges show a large scatter: the
observed values are 15 JlC/m2 maximal against an average of a few

2.3 Fields at different stages

In order to describe the different field configurations which may occur
in DC insulations, four different stages are distinguished as shown in
figure 2.8. The rise time and the switch-off time of the voltage is
assumed to be smaller than the time constant r, In each stage the
fields are calculated, or at least estimated.

- -
/ -,
/ <,
/ <,

I II m TI[

Fig. 2.8. The four stages when switching on and switching off a De voltage. The
dotted line represents the growth and the decline of internal charges.

Stage I

When raising the voltage (and for a short time after that) the field
distribution is capacitive and the c's if the insulation materials are
directing the field, as shown in the simple example of figure 2.9. The
well-know calculation methods developed for electrostatic fields can
be applied, see volume I chapter 2, including the usual field plotting

Fig. 2.9. Example of a capacitive field

plot, stage I. The equipotentiallines tend
stage I
to concentrate in the low E area. (The field
+100 kV OkV
in the present and following illustrations
is calculated as a rotational-symmetric

Stage 11

In stage II the transition from capacitive to resistive fields takes

place. Local field strengths gradually change from stage I to stage lIl;
in order to assess the risk of breakdown, the highest field strength of
the two stages can be taken into account. There is, however, one
exception to this rule: if three (or more) layers are present with
widely varying values for el In this case overshoot may take place
in one of the layers [9]. This is shown in figure 2.10 for a Maxwell
capacitor with three layers: ea = 1, eb = 2, ec = 5 and Pa = 1, Pb = 10,
Pc = 50. The curves show that the voltage over layer a has already
vanished before the voltage over layer c has been built up, so that
layer b must temporarily bear the full voltage. If this occurs in an
actual field configuration, the corresponding Maxwell capacitor must

be calculated and the overshoot accounted for in the field

There are a1so methods for the exact calculation of the transition [8]
but they are quite complicated and are not strict1y needed to analyze
actua1 field configurations.


rf. L-=========================- t-

Fig. 2.10. Transient in a 3-layer Maxwell capacitor. The field in layer b has a
transient value that is higher than at the start (capacitive distribtition) and at the end
(resistive distribution); such overstressing in stage II ( ay occJ'r in 'constructions
where 3 or more than 3 dielectrics are present. i .

Stage 111

In this stage, a pure resistive field occurs. This field can be calculated
with the same methods used for a capacitive field, with one
important difference: in resistive fields the specific conductivities (J of
the materials are introduced instead of the permittivities E. As long
as (J is chosen, the calculations given in volume I pages 21 to 37, the
computer simulation of pages 46 to 54 and the graphic
approximation of pages 55 to 57 can be used [1]. Any of the
commercially available ca1culation programs for AC fields can be
used for this purpose as long as the program can cope with the large
variations in (J which might appear. In order to show the difference
with stage I the same simple configuration as that given in figure 2.9
is plotted in figure 2.11 for a DC field. The different distribution of
the field over Huid and solid and the altered shape of the
equipotentiallines is clearly shown.

Fig. 2.11. Example of a resistive field plot,

stage A. The equipotential lines tend to
stage 11I concentrate in the low o area ,
+100 kV OkV

Surface charges in stage 111

A last question that has to be answered here is the following: what

part is played by surface charges in these field configurations? When
calculating DC fields as done above, entering the conductivities Cf in
the formula, the answer is: "none". The field can correctly be
calculated without resorting to surface charges.
We know, however, that surface charges are present and we want to
know what relationship they bear to the DC field. This can be
answered by analysing the situation at the interfaces as shown in
figure 2.12 [4].
The tangential field strengths are, as shown in volume I, section 1.3:
En = Et2
This is valid both for resistive and capacitive fields.
The normal field strengths calculated in the resitive field satisfy the
continuity law

xr :
v] + ~-O
at - ,

+ Fig. 2.12. Equivalence of resistive and

capacitive fields when introducing the
right surface charge 1\ on the interface
between dielectric 1 and dielectric 2.


or in the static case

a: = 0 so that~. \7 J =- 0

It follows for the abrupt change at the interface that <J"lEnl = <J"2En2'
If the normal field strength were calculated in a capacitive field
ff D n dA = 4!.,would apply as .shown in figure 1.7 in [1] and it
follows that ~fE n l - 2En2 = -K, where Kis the surface charge at the
interface. .
Comparing the two calculation methods:

Calculated as Calculated as
resistive field capacitive field

En = Et2 En = Et2
<J"lEnl = <J"2 En2 O1E n l - ~En2 = -K
f i :).
The two sets of conditions become identical if the surface charge Kis
equal to

It then follows:



Consequently, when ca1culating a De field we may choose. If we

know the conductivities of the materials weIl, we choose the resistive
calculation as the more convenient one.
In certain cases the resistivity of the dielectrics cannot be known; this
is, for instance, the case with the 5F6 insulator shown in figure 2.5:
we cannot express the field emission in the gas in a value for (J. In
such a case, the above identity enables us to ca1culate the field by
measuring the surface charges and introducing their effect in a
capacitive field. Modern computing techniques [11] permit such

o 0 Fig. 2.13. Surface charge on the interface

o 0
v C\l 0
in the example of figure 2.11.

2 o 0 o 0
-JlC/m o 0 o
v C\l C)l

The equation above makes it also possible to ca1culate the

distribution of the surface charges if the DC field is known:

where Enl and En2 are taken from the resistive field.

In figure 2.13, this distribution is shown for the same configuration as

that in figure 2.9, taking into account the e's of the two materials.

Stage IV

After switching off the DC voltage, local surface charges remain.

They slowly vanish, often with a time constant which is equal to the
time constant when switching on. In some cases, however, the time
constant may be far larger and the time for the disappearing of all
charges far longer; this is, for instance, the case at epoxy-Sf'g
interfaces, as has been indicated before. These surface charges cause
charge-induced fields in the dielectric. In some areas the field will be
reversed, in other areas the direction of the field remains, see figure
2.14. This figure shows equipotentiallines in a closed loop, similar to
contour lines on a map. This is characteristic for fields where a
surface charge (or a space charge) is present.

Fig. 2.14. The charge induced field created

by the surface charges of figure 2.13.
stage ISL
o kV OkV

In many cases these fields will not cause problems. However, in some
cases the reversed field will be larger than the original one, see-fer
-instance figure 2.15 where the resulting fields in ft triple Maxwell
- ap acitor are shown, with Ga 1, Cb 1, Cc ;) and 0'8 3.3, CJ'b 1-,
~ 1 In laye-r-a-,-ilie reversed field~ftel Hwi" hing oEf is larg~r tl-laR
tbe original De field. Thus in actual cases, an estimation must be
made of the surface charges which are generated during the DC stage
and the charge-induced field that arises after switching off must be
calculated. If space charges are present the situation is still more
complicated; this situation is studied in chapter 4.


0 0

I s: ~ I zn
Fig. 2.15. Three stages after polarity reversal. The dotted line represents the decline
and growth of charges in the dielectric.

The four stages above have shown that the calculation of fields in DC
insulation is more complicated than in the case of AC. If now the DC
voltage is reversed, the complication goes even further, as shown in
the following section.

2.4 Fields after polarity reversal

In figure 2.15, the three stages after a polarity reversal are shown, the
time of reversal is taken short in comparison to the time constant r of
the dielectric.

Stage V

During the polarity reversal and for a short time af ter that, a
capacitive field is generated in the opposite direction of the original
field. At the same time the surface charges from the previous stage
remain and affect the field as well. In an actual case as shown in
figure 2.16, a field plot is made with a computing program that
calculates the capacitive field and introduces the effect of the surface
charges which were found in figure 2.13. The closed contour lines are
seen here as weU.

Fig. 2.16. Field distribution af ter a

polarity reversal in the configuration of
stage sr. figure 2.11. The field induced by the
-100 kV OkV
surface charges is superposed on the field
caused by the reversed voltage.

Stage VI

In this stage the old surface charges graduaUy disappear and new
charges are formed . The fields from stage V graduaUy change into
those of stage VI.

Stage VII

In this stage a resistive field is again formed . This field may be

identical (but in the reversed direction) to that in stage III, but this is

not always the case: there are configurations where the field
distribution of a positive voltage differs from that of a negative

From the considerations above it follows that, in contrast to AC,

more than one field plot must be made. The required field plots are
dictated by the way the construction is used in service: with or
without polarity reversal- slow or fast voltage rise (as compared to
the time constant -r) - continuous or intermittent voltage application
- positive or negative HV electrode - and so on.

Fig. 2.17. Specific resistivity of oil and of

oil irnpregnated paper.

o 20 40 60 80 100
c _

2.5 Effect of temperature and field strength

When ca1culating DC fields, two more variables have to be taken into
account: temperature and field strength. In the case of AC the
permittivities E of materials and, consequently, the fields are not
affected by temperature, or by the field strength. At DC, however,
the conductivities (J' are much dependent on temperature and field
strength, which entails a further complication when dealing with DC
fields. A classic example of this complication is oil-impregnated
paper insulation in a submarine DC cable.
If the cable is in full operation, the conductor may be at a
temperature of 40C and the cable sheath at 10C, that is to say a
temperature gradient is generated. In figure 2.17, the specific resistivity

is shown as a function of temperature; it follows from this curve that

the resistivity near the conductor will be many times lower than that
near the sheath. Consequently the electric field will be far lower near
the conductor than near the sheath, in contrast to the well-known
field distribution in AC cables where the highest field strength is
found near the conductor. In figure 2.18, this field strength is shown
as a function of the distance to the conductor (curve A). However,
the conductivity also depends on the field strength so that in areas
with high field strength the resistivity decreases too. Thus, the field is
more evenly distributed (curve B).
In a cold cable, without a temperature gradient, the field distribution
would have been situated (curve C) along the same curve as is known
from AC cables.

Critical Situation

As the temperature in the dielectric varies, the ratio el a varies as

weIl and a space charge p is generated in the dielectric according to p
~(e/ a). (This space charge is further calculated in appendix Al).
This space charge is the cause of the difference in the field strength of
curves C and B. It can then be conc1uded that the field induced by the
space charge is equal to the difference between curves C and B, see
curve D in figure 2.18.
If now the voltage over the cable is reversed, an AC field is generated
in the opposite direction. This field is superposed on the charge-
induced field D and a high field strength is generated at the
conductor, see curve E. This is the reason that polarity reversals in a
hot cable are a critical situation for HVDC cables. Type tests on
HVDC cables always specify polarity reversals on fully loaded

conductor sheath Fig. 2.18. Field distributions in paper

at 40 oe at 10 e

insulated cable with a thermal gradient.

Curve A: tendency to concentrate the field
at the higher resistive (cooler) outer part.
Curve B: actual field strength, relieve by
the non-linearity of the dielectric. Curve
C: capacitive distribution. Curve D: the
difference between curve Band C is the
charge induced field D. Curve E: the field
a t polarity reversal is composed of the
charge induced field and the reserved
capacitive field.

2.6 Some examples

The first example relates to a power transfor;;aer which operates in a
rectifying circuit so that the high voltage ~l c l~ae is on De voltage.
The left part of figure 2.19 shows the capacitive field distribution, the
right part shows the resistive field that occurs in stage 111. The
difference in fields is characteristic, the behaviour of the equipotential
lines can be described as follows [3]:

Capacitive Field Resistive Field

l. The equipotentiallines are l. The equipotentiallines are
compressed in the oil compressed in the barrier
(oil == low E) (barrier == l?w fJ
2. The compression is .mild 2. The compression is
b 4
'!i = large =: t'v
~ s;,
3. Refraction of equipeten- 3. Ibid:
tiallines at an interface: the angles is far smaller in
the angle is smallest in oil, the solid,
or: or:
in the solid they bend in the solid they bend
away from the interface towards the interface

L.V. L.V.

H.V. H.V.

capac itive resistive

Fig . 2.19. Examples of a capacitive and resistive field in a rectifier transformer.


cap. res. Fig. 2.20. Voltage drops over the oil gaps
o b o b o and barriers b in the transformer of
figure 2.19 . In order of succession:
capacitive field in stage I, resistive fjeld in
- + stage Ill, charge induced field in stage IV
and reversed field in stage V.

difference after reversal

o b o b
+ +

+ +
+ +

In the capacitive field it is mainly the oil that will be stressed, in the
resistive field the solid.
There is a third situation to be analyzed: the field distribution after
polarity reversal, because polarity reversals often occur with HVDC
transmission. This analysis goes as follows [10]: the potential drop
over an oil gap 0 and an adjacent barrier b is determined, both in the
capacitive and the resistive case, see figure 2.20. The difference
between these two potential drops is the effect of the surface charges. It
can be expected that after removing the external voltage a field
remains that is equal to this difference, see the third illustration in
figure 2.20. When there is polarity reversal a capacitive field occurs in
the opposite direction. This field is superposed on the charge-
induced field and a high field strength is developed in the oil barrier,
as can be seen from the last illustration in figure 2.20.
The second example relates to a joint in a high voltage high vacuum
tube. In figure 2.21, the resistive field distribution is shown for the
case where the material of the joint has a far higher resistivity than
the glass of the tube. It is clear that the compression of the field by
the high-ohmie material causes a high field strength in the joint. This
can considerably be improved by using a jointing material that is

Fig. 2.21. Resistive field in a high-vacuum

glass tube. In this example the material
that joints the two parts has a higher
resistivity than the glass: field
concentration in the joint.

Fig. 2.22. Resistive field in the same

configuration as in figure 2.21 but with
a jointing material of far lower
resistivity. The field concentration has

more conductive than the glass, as shown in figure 2.22. A slight

longitudinal field occurs now but is too weak to be dangerous.
The third example is a cable terminal for HVDC cable as shown in
figure 2.23, similar to an AC cable terminal as discussed in volume I,
section 11.1 [1]. When the cable is in full service there is a
temperature gradient that causes a higher resistivity on the outside.
The field strength on the outside becomes higher and the equi-
potentiallines are pushed outwards. The interface J between cable
and stress cone is more stressed than would be the case at AC. In

Fig. 2.23. Terminal of a HVDC cab Ie.

Because of the temperature gradient the
equipotential lines tend to move to the
stress cone. This causes higher stresses in
the interface so that a longer stress cone
must be chosen. The lines also tend to
remain in the paper roll so that a longer
roll must be chosen to prevent
concentrations at the top.


cable sheath

order to reduce the longitudinal field strength, the stress cone is made
longer than for AC. Furthermore, the equipotentiallines in the high-
ohmic paper rolls tend to stay in the paper. In order to prevent
concentration at the top, the paper roll is chosen to be longer than in
an AC terminal.

2.7 Design


When designing DC equipment one or several field plots must be

made. As foUows from the considerations above, the field plots
should be in accordance with the service conditions in practice. A
first step towards a good design is to define correctly the service
2.7. DESIGN 31

conditions to be expected and to choose the right stage(s) from the

stages 1 to VIII above.
In the following, a checklist is given that may help in selecting the
appropriate field plots. The various situations are shown in figure
2.24, the indications (a) to (g) correspond to the cases (a) to (g)

(a) ~r------ - - - - - -

(b) ----.5'--_-----'[1 lL
(c) ~ __ l..O.Jl
(d)~ L __ r=--
(e)~ L __ ~
(f)~ I --
NVYYV\/~\, - -

Fig. 2.24. Various service situations as discussed in the check list on De design.

Continuous Service at One Polarity

a. Resistive field plotting is sufficient here, certainly if the rise
time of the voltage is > r, If the rise time is < t, but occurs
only once, the capacitive field might also be neglected.

Discontinuous Service at One Polarity

b. If the periods of service are < r the capacitive field plot is
c. If these periods recur frequently the capacitive plot may be
completed with a resistive field of the average De component
of the service periods.
d. If the periods of service are> r both the capacitive and the
resistive fields shall be plotted and an estimation of the
intermediate stage should be made.

Continuous Service at one or the other Polarity

e. If the periods of service as weU as the intervals between
opposite polarities are very long a resistive field plot might be
sufficient. Two separate resistive plots might be required if the
fields in the construction are polarity dependent.

Fast Polarity Reversals

f A Jull set of plots as weU as an estimation of the polarity
reversal effect must be made as described in section 2.4.

Superposition of AC and DC Fields

g. If AC and DC voltages are superposed, as in rectifier
circuits, the best that can be done is to plot both the
capacitive and resistive fields and add them where necessary.
Some error will be made because of the non-linear resistivity
of many materials.

Homogeneous High Temperature

If the construction is also used at a higher but homogeneous
temperature the resistive plots should be made for the <Y's at high
temperature as well.

Temprature Gradient
If conductor losses cause a temperature gradient in the construction,
the resistive fields will be greatly affected. Space charges will be
developed which affect the fields if polarity reversals take place. See
section 2.5.

Permissible fields

A second step is to compare the fields at the criticallocations with a

list of permissible field strengths. There is, however, not so many
data available for DC as there is for AC fields. In volume I, page 163
[1] a number of safe field strengths have been given for AC and
impulse voltage. We may safely assume that in vacuum and gasses
the same values apply to DC, but in solids far higher field strengths
are permitted. If we fellow this principle, the foUowing estimates can
2.7. DESIGN 33

be made for permissible field strengths at a stability test at about 1.5 to

1.8 times nominal voltage.

VaClIlIm, free space 25 to 40 kV/rnrn see [1] p. 64

VaclIlIm, along interface 7 to 10 kV/rnrn
Dry Air, free space 2 kVjrnrn [1] p. 84-87
Dry Air, along interface 1 kV/rnrn
Compressed Air, 5 Bar 12 kV/rnrn [1] p. 89
Compressed Air, interface 6 kVjrnrn
SF6 Gas, 5 Bar, free space 20 kV/rnrn [1] p. 90
SF6 Gas, along interface 10 kV/rnrn
Oil, between barriers 10 kV/rnrn [1] p. 12
Oil, along interface <5 kV/rnrn
Oillmpregnated Paper
perpendicular ta layers 30 to 60 kVjrnrn [1] p. 142
parallel ta layers 6 to 10 kV/rnrn
Epoxy, Plastics, etc. unknown, but> 20 kV/rnrn
Porcelain & Glass > 25 kV/rnrn

It must, however, be emphasized that these are very uncertain figures.

They may be used in a first approach, but they should be verified by
extensive testing of the construction that has been designed with
these data.

Field Grading

The last step that can be taken is to improve a design by lowering the
field strengths at the critical points (increasing of course the fields at
other locations). In volume I, chapter 11 [1] four methods for shaping
a field configuration are shown under the heading "field grading". All
four methods can be used for De as well. They are discussed below
although in a slightly modified manner,

1. Electrode grading
The highest field strength occurs of ten at one of the
electrodes. By skilfully modifying the shape of the electrode
the field can favourably be affected, see for instanee volume
I, section 11.2 [1].

Shaping the electrode can also be used to control the

longitudinal field at an interface. An example is given in
volume I, sections 10.2 and 11.1.
2. Resistivity grading
This way of adjusting the field is the counterpart of epsilon
grading as developed in part I for AC fields. As the a's of
different dielectrics differ far more than their ~s this type of
grading can be very effective. Examples for AC are given in
volume I, section 11.3.
3. Condenser bushing
The field grading in condenser bushings makes use of a
number of floating electrodes and although it looks if it
would function at AC only, the same principle will work at
DC too, The principles as described in volume I, section 11.4
and the simple calculation on page 158 are valid.
4. Conductive layers
Semi-conductive layers as indicated in volume I, section
11.5, may work here as well. The use of non-linear layers may
be attempted as well, In both cases, however, the resistivity
of the layer must be far and far higher than in the case of AC
and layers of such high resistivity are difficult to make and
difficult to keep stable,
Chapter 3
Surface charges

In this chapter methods for measuring surface charges are described

first, then actual results of measurements are reported. Two
a1ternative measuring methods are described: the use of powders and
the field mill. Thereafter the capacitive probe is studied, which is
generally adapted as a standard method of measuring.

3.1 Alternative methods


A general impression of the distribution of surface charges is

obtained if electrostatic powders are sprinkled over the surface.
These powders tend to attach to surface charges. Red-coloured lead
oxide (Pb304) marks positive charges, yellow-white sulphur (S)
marks negative charges; coloured powders for copying machines can
also been used [12]. Unfortunately, no quantitative measurement can
be performed in this way.

Field mill

The field mill consists of a measuring electrode Mand a rotating vane

Vas shown in figure 3.1. The field mill is brought into the vicinity of
the surface to be measured. The field lines induced by the surface
charges terminate at the electrode Mand are interrupted n times per
second by the rotating vane. The measuring electrode experiences a
fluctuating electric field which generates an alternating current i in
the measuring circuit. A surface charge I( at the sample generates an
opposite charge - I ( at the electrode when the vane is open, if the vane
is closed this becomes zero. The charge at the measuring electrode
varies thus between zero and q = AI( and an average current i is


V Fig. 3.1. Field mill, The rotating va ne V

+ I blocks the electrical field n times per
second. The measuring electrode M is
t 1-
: I---t---{ periodically reached by the field and a
: 1- varying charge q is induced which
+ 1- causes an alternating current i . This

current is directly promotional to the
surface charge (here +) to be measured.

. =~
1 dt = A 1(n,

where A is the effective surface of the electrode. By measuring i the

surface charge can be directly determined.

3.2 Capacitive Probe


The capacitive probe is currently used to measure surface charges [4,

13]. It is based on the use of a stabie electronic voltmeter with a very
high input impedance. The principle is shown in figure 3.2. The
probe is brought to a small distance h from the surface and the

voltage u is measured. The charge at a small surface A is thus

determined. The average surface charge at this location can be
derived from this measurement under the condition that:

the charge at surface A has one polarity

the charge at A is homogeneous
no space charge is present in the dielectric

Fig. 3.2. Probe for measuring surface

probe u
charges. The probe is moved on to the
surface at a distance hand the resulting
shielding voltage 11 is read. This voltage is directly
proportional to the surface charge in
area A.

If the probe is carried from far away to near the surface, the effect of
the charge qat surface A will be divided over capacitance C3 and the
series conneetion of Cl and C2, see figure 3.3. The induced voltage u
is then

The measured surface charge is l( = q/ A, so that

Fig. 3.3. Equivalent circuit of the probe

of figure 3.2.

or introducing a measuring sensitivity M:

/(=M u,


The capacity Cl between probe and surface is actually thousands of

times smaller than the total capacitance C2 of cable and measuring

With Cl C2 the sensitivity becomes

Surface A is about equal to the surface of the inner probe and

capacitances Cl and C2 can either be ca1culated or measured. The
sensitivity factor M can be thus ca1culated.

Calibrating the probe

If the ca1culation of M is considered to be too complicated or too

unsure, factor M can also be calibrated with a metal plate at a
calibrating potential V c according to figure 3.4. The probe is moved
towards the metal plate and placed at the same distance h. This
results in a measured voltage U c. Now the three capacitances CIto C3
are introduced.

and C2 is derived from this calibration:


Fig. 3.4. Calibrating the probe of figure

3.4. The metal plate is at a voltage V s
and the resulting voltage U c on the
shielding electronic voltmeter is recorded. The
sensitivity factor M can be deduced
from these observations.

m":~N ,OOJh Cl=:: A


and it follows

If these values are entered in the expression for M:

so that M now can be calculated. In actual configurations h < dl Er and

VclUe 1 so that

_ EO Ve
M - h .U

and a simple relationship between Mand the calibration values (Ve,

U e ) is obtained.
In order to attain sufficient accuracy, the distance h is kept the same,
both at the calibration procedure and when testing a surface.
Moreover, it has been found that h must be somewhat less than the
diameter of the inner probe [15].

Offset of the meter

An offset current is caused by the smaIlleakage of the circuitry in the

electronic voltmeter. After the meter is unlocked, a deviation from
the zero level gradually develops. Accurate tuning of the meter can
restriet this offset to 0.02 volt for 5 to 10 minutes. If M is in the order
of 10 to 50, this offset causes misreadings in the order of 0.2 to 1
IlC/m2, which is insignificant in comparison with the scatter in actual
If the offset is larger, the gradual change in the zero level will be
recorded, as well as the time between unlocking the meter and
making an observation. The error can then be corrected.
Another souree of errors is the piezo-electric effect in the coaxcable
between probe and meter. Wh en the cable is bent a piezo-electric
effects may cause unwanted voltages in the insulation. This effect
must be studied in advance with a probe that is screened from
external effects. In actual cases where this effect was too large, a rigid
coax conneetion was introduced between probe and meter. The
difficulties in handling such an inflexible system had to be accepted.

Universal calibration


-r 2

E::ZA electrodes k ,' , I dielectric

Fig. 3.5. Universal calibration in two steps.

Step I: calibration as in figure 3.4
Step 11: the electrodes are removed from earth and brought to a potential V p; a
reading U" results. The sensitivity M of the probe can be deduced from the results of
these two steps.

The configuration is not always as simple as that given in figure 3.2,

where a flat plate had to be tested. More complicated structures can
be studied such as in the example given in figure 3.5. In this example
the surface of a cylindrical spacer must be tested. The capacitance of
C3 can no longer be ca1culated and, moreover, it varies with the
location of the probe. In such cases the calibration of the probe is
made in two steps [4]. -
Step I. The first step consists again of a calibration against a metal
plate at voltage V c as shown in figure 3.4. This results in a measured
voltage Uc and a ratio Kc = Vc/ Uc' The value of Cl is then obtained by
Cl = C2/(KI - 1) ::::: C21KI = also O (Alh) where C2 is the input
capacitance of the probe-plus-meter, which can be measured
Step 11. The value of C3 is derived from a second step. The electrodes
in figure 3.5 are removed from earth and brought to a potential V p. A
reading Up of the meter is obtained and a ratio Kp = VplUp is
introduced. It can be calculated that

The above relations are applied to the formula for Mand it follows

By performing two calibrations, the measuring sensitivity M of the

probe can thus be determined. As the value of C3 varies with the
position of the probe M varies too, but this variation is not large. If C3
is assumed to be small the value of Kp is large and the measuring
sensitivity changes into

the same value was derived for the flat sample given in figure 3.2. In
that case only one calibration needs to be made.

Variation of M

As we have seen before M varies with the location of the probe. In

figure 3.6 actual values of Mare shown as a function of the location z,
measured along the surface of three different cylindrical spacers A, B
and C [4]. The variation of M is in the order of 10% of its average
value. If accurate results are required the calibration should be
performed at different locations. We will see later, however, that the
scatter in actual tests is often far larger than 10% so that one single
calibration may be sufficient.

52,..------------, Fig. 3.6. The sensitivity factor M for

JlC/m2 V
48 A
three different cylindrical spacers: A f B
and C. Factor M varies with the position
44 B z of the probe.

40 C



28 -!--.-----r----,---.------1
o 10 20 30 40 50

Measuring at an angle

If curved surfaces must be tested, situating the probe at an angle with

the surface cannot be avoided. Such a situation is shown in figure 3.7.
If this situation is compared to that of figure 3.2, where the probe is
situated perpendicularly, it follows that the equivalent diagram
remains the same. However, the size of the measured surface A
might vary with the angle f3 and consequently the capacitances Cl
and C3 . In order to check this, tests have been performed on a flat
sample and the values of Cl, C3 and A have been determined as a
function of f3 [4]. The two-step method was used. The results are
shown in figure 3.8. It follows from these observations that up to 30

the deviation is smaller than the scatter shown in the results. Up to

45, which would be an extreme case in actual tests, the deviations
are not larger than 15%. It can safely be conc1uded that measuring at
an angle does not pose serious problems.

Fig. 3.7. The probe under an angle f3.

The same equivalent diagram as in
figure 3.3 applies. M is slightly depen-
dent on angle f3.

Fig. 3.8. Characteristic capacitances C3 11

C in 10-15 F
and Cl and measured surface A as a
9 A in mm2
function of the angle f3 of the probe. 0
7 0

c c
5 n c

0 10 20 30 40 50 60

Combination of position and angle

If a curved spacer is tested as shown in figure 3.9 both the location

and the angle of the probe will vary. In this example the values of M
have been determined [4] as a function of the radius r, see figure 3.10.
It has been found that M varies between 10 and 12.5 IlC/m2V. If the
average value of 11.11lC/m2V is used throughout the test, the error is

not larger than about 10%, which is fully acceptable in actual

measurements of surface discharges.

Fig. 3.9. Charge measurement at an actuai spaeer in SF6 gas.

i 14 J!C/m 2 V Fig. 3.10. Variation of the sensitivity

factor M with radius r, measured for the
12 spaeer in figure 3.9.

r, mm
60 80 100 120

3.3 Compressed gas insulation

The methods discussed above have been successfully applied to
actual spacers in compressed gasses. From figure 2.20 we have seen
that the surface charge 1( at an interface is related to the local field
strength perpendicular to that interface:

which can also be written as


In compressed gasses two situations can be distinguished: (A) when

the voltage is higher than the onset voltage of electron emission at the
H.V . electrode. The a of the gas is then high; or (B) when the voltage
is lower than that onset voltage and a of the gas is exceedingly low.
These two situations are further studied below.

Case A, with emission

In a compressed gas the leakage current may be generated by field

emission. A charge transport then takes place along the field lines.
Above a certain threshold voltage, the field emission increases
rapidly and it is larger if the electrode has a rough surface or contains
protrusions. The equivalent conductivity (j2 in figure 3.11 is then
large, larger than that of the solid, so that (j2 (jl. The surface charge

i.e. proportional to the normal component of the field strength in the

From (jl Ent = (j2 En2, see section 2.3, it follows

so that En2 becomes small, or En2 =:: O.

with emission


Fig. 3.11. Resistive field in the vicinity of an epoxy-resin spacer. The gas conducts
charges caused byemission.

The normal field in the gas is almost zero and there remains only a
tangential field at the interface. The equipotentiallines are practically
perpendicular to the surface.

Case B, without emission

If the voltage is lower than the threshold voltage, which also assumes
that the electrode is very smooth, the conductivity 0"2 of the gas is far
smaller than that in the solid:

and the surface charge is

thus proportional to the normal field in the gas.

In this case, the normal field in the solid is practically zero and the
equipotential lines in the solid are almost perpendicular to the
interface, see figure 3.12

without emission


Fig. 3.12. Resistive field in the vicinity of a spacer. No charge emission at the

The situations in figures 3.11 and 3.12 show the fields for a wedge-
shaped spacer. In both cases the field is seriously disturbed. Such
spacers have been designed to be ideal for AC fields, but they turn
out to be unsuitable for DC In the case of DC, a straight spacer with
the surface parallel to the field would appear to be a better design. A

further improvement could be obtained by introducing an extra

surface conductivity at the spacer, but this is difficult to realize and
will not be further studied here.

Another view on case A

Case A can also be described in a physical way. Field emission takes

place at the low voltage electrode; even a fairly smooth electrode has
protrusions which add to the field ernission, see volume I section 4.2
[1]. The ernitted charges move along the field lines to the surface of
the spacer, see figure 3.13. Charge is in this way colleered at the
interface where it opposes the original field. In the long run the
charges will no longer reach the surface. They are deflected and flow
to the opposite electrode as shown in figure 3.14. At locations where
the original field was high, i.e. the capacitively calculated field was
maximal, a large charge is needed to neutralize the normal field. The
collected surface charge is thus proportional to the initial normal field
strength at the spacer.

Fig. 3.13. Charge emission of the low

voltage electrode. The charges reach the
spaeer surface and affect the local field

Fig. 3.14. Floating charges are deflected

by the surface charge of the spacer.

Tests with cylindrical spacers have confirmed this [4]. In figure 3.15
the initial normal field strength, En (capacitive), is shown at the
surface of a cylindrical spacer with curved electrodes at the ends. The
normal field varies and attains both positive and negative values. The
measured surface charge x is shown as well. The relationship

between K and En is c1ear. A convincing detail is the crossing of the

zero line, the crossings coincide for K and En .

t 20
4 t
0 0

-20 -4
0 10 20 30 40
cm -

Fig. 3.15. Normal field strength along a cylindrical spacer calculated in the capacitive
field. The resulting charge deposit is everywhere opposed to this initial field.


The values for Kin figure 3.15 are averages, the individual results
show a large scatter. The highest values agree wen with the above-
stated equation K = e En, the lowest values are far lower. The reason
for this large scatter is not known. Measurement errors can have
some influence. In the first place, the observation takes place quite a
long time after switching off of the voltage. Further, the probe may
disturb the local field and cause charge shifts. However, th ere are
more aspects: the effect of the surface roughness of the spaeer is
striking. Figure 3.16 shows the scatter at three degrees of roughness:
0.5 11, 7 11 and 13 11 The value of 0.5 11 represents the natural
smoothness of the cast-resin spaeer, the va lu es of 7 11 and 13 jl were
obtained by treating the surface with pearl jets. The pearl blasting has
a favourable effect on the scatter, but the reason for this effect is

~C/m2 0 .5~

o 7~
o 1 3~

-5 +---.-------.------r----r-----r----,,---.----
20 30 40 50 GO 70 80 90

Fig. 3.16. Scatter of the surface charge at a spacer. The surface roughness 0,5 /.1, 7/.1 or
13/.1, affects the scatter [4].

Time constants

From various tests it is known that the time constant after switchi ng
on is other than that af ter switching of! Af ter switching on, a
compressed gas installation saturation is reached in 2 to 5 hours, in
line with the mechanism described in the sections 2.1 and 3.3. The
decay of the surface charge af ter switching oH, however, takes
another course. Usually, the start of the decay is fast, for instanee
down to half-value in half an hour; thereafter the charge stays on: for
instance after 1000 hours 10% of the original charge is still present. In
figure 3.17 the growth and decay of the surface charge in SF6
surro undings is shown.

The explanation for this behaviour is as follows. The surface charge

that had been built up induces an electric field that is suHiciently
larger to cause ionisation and avalanches after switching off. This
generates loss of charge and consequently decay of the electric field.

10 100 1000
hour s -

Fig. 3.17. Growth and decline of surface charges in 5F 6 gas. The growth takes place in
the normal exponential way. The decli ne takes place in two stages: a fast decline at
the first hour, followed by an extremely slow one . A fraction of the charge may still
be present after 1000 hours.

When this field has attained a fairly low value, ionisation stops and
another mechanism sets in. Through natural ionisation there are
always pairs of ions present in a gas. One of such a pair may
neutralize a charge of opposite polarity when it arrives at the surface
of the spacer. This is confirmed by observations in SF6 and dry air. In
SF6 100 ion pairs per m 3 per Pascal are formed every second, in dry
air this amounts to 20 pairs/m3 sPa. The decay of surface charges in
SF6 has indeed been found to be 4 to 5 times faster than in dry air
[14]. In moist air yet another mechanism takes over. The surface
resistivity at the spacer increases there dramatically and a fast decay
of charge is created.

The consequence of these large time constants for the behaviour at

polarity reversal is dear. Even if the polarity reversal takes place
slowly, or after a long time of rest, the residual charges at the spacer
have a large and unfavourable influence on the field.

AC voltage

Above a certain onset voltage, an electrode at AC voltage w ill emi t

electrons at th e negative crest of th e sine wave; th is effect will be
lar ger if the electrode ha s a rougher surface. At the positive half-cycle

this does not occur so that some rectification of the leakage current
takes place. This mechanism causes negative charges to be
accumulated at the spaeer surface, in principal at the same sites as
found for De. The same characteristics as far DC are valid: the time
constant amounts to one or a few hours and the magnitude of the
surface charge is maximallY-2Enl'
Actual tests in Sf6 at 100 kPa and at a field strength of 7.5 kV/mm in
the presence of a fairly rough electrode (r = 15 u) showed alocal
charge concentration of -15 ~C/m2. A surface charge of this
magnitude may affect the local field with 1 to 1.5 kV /mm. At one
polarity of the AC voltage this field adds to the AC field and is thus
detrimental to the breakdown voltage of the system. This is one of the
reasons why electrodes in compressed gas systems should be well
polished, also at the low voltage side.

3.4 Surface charges under oil


Measuring surface charges under oil is easier than measuring in

compressed gas systems because no pressure vessel is present and
the system is more readily accessible. There are, however, some
complications which are indicated below.

1. Calibration - Calibration should be performed under oil.

Otherwise the capacitance Cl is not the same when calibra-
ting and when measuring and the value of M is incorrect.
2. Time constant - The greater conductivity of the oil causes a
smaller time constant than that which is found in gas-filled
systems. There is less time available for bringing the probe
into position after switching off the DC voltage. If this takes
too long, too-low values for the surface charge will be
measured. The measuring time in relationship to the time
constant 'l" must be taken into account.
3. Space charge - Space charge is formed in the oil during
voltage application. The probe must be well screened and be
brought into position quickly: space charges tend to flow to

the probe and affect the readings. In contrast to point 2, slow

handling leads here to too high values. Surface charges tests
under oil are in this way sensitive to error and demand
careful handling.

Int erface paper-Dil

Combinations of paper and oil are currently used in constructions for

high voltage DC transmission, such as the HVDC cable discussed in
section 2.5 and the rectifier transformer in section 2.6. This
combination in non-energy applications also occurs , but the
combination of synthetics and oil is more often used. These cases are
similar to case A above where the conductivity of the fluid is greater
than that of the solid, a2 al. At the interface between the solid and
the oil surface, charges will be collected and this growth of charge
will proceed until the normal field strength at the interface is
neutralized. The charge distribution is thus proportional to the
distribution of the initial (capacitive) field perpendicular to the
surface. The magnitude of this charge can again be calculated from

where l is the permittivity of the solid and E nl the normal field

strength in the solid, calculated in a resistive field model. The level of
this charge will be according to section 2.3 in the order of some tens
of /lC /m 2 per 100 kV test voltage. The time constant T is in
accordance with the expression in the same section, dependent on the
conductivity of the oil and consequently of the service temperature:

at room temperature T:::: one hour

at service temperature T:::: minutes.

In figure 3.18, observations on a dielectric plate in moist oil with a

low insulation resistivity are shown. Saturation occurs after about 10
minutes. Unlike the phenomena in gas, there is no difference between
the positive and the negative voltage application and the time
constants at switching on and switching oH are equal. These

characteristics are explained by the fact that the conducting

mechanism is not polarity dependent nor voltage dependent.

JlC/m 2



5 10 15 20 \-
min. - 0 \ 5 10 15

Fig. 3.18. The growth and decline of surface charges under oil follow a normal
course. In contrast to gasses no asymmetry occurs.

Interface synthetics-oil

The field in a combination of synthetics and oil does not differ very
much from that of paper with oil. However, the equipotential lines
are more pushed into the solid. This is usually advantageous as the
oil is then more relieved of the electric field. In certain cases, this
compression of equipotentiallines can be too much as can be seen in
figure 3.19, case A. By adding a layer of paper with a somewhat
lower resistivity, a layer of surface charge is deposited at the
interface, see case B in figure 3.19 and the field concentration at the
corner decreases.
The magnitudes of the surface charge and of the time constant when
building up the charge do not differ from the values indicated for
paper in the section above.

Fig. 3.19. Relieving the field at a sharp corner. By introducing a less resistant layer of
paper surface charges are generated at the interface paper-synthetic.
Space charges

In this chapter measuring techniques for detecting space charge will

be studied. Thereafter the physical background to collecting space
charge and some examples of actual space charge distributions in
polymers will be discussed.

4.1 Space charge measurements

Space charge is more difficult to measure than surface charge. In
some cases the total charge in the dielectric may be derived from the
polarization current that flows during stages land Il. The
distribution of this charge, however, cannot be determined in this
Space charges in gasses play an important role in the breakdown
mechanisms of gasses, see for instanee section 5.2 and 6.1 in volume I.
The same may be true for liquids. These space charges, however, live
for an extremely short period and do not affect the electric field in a
way that is relevant to De; the measurement of those charges will not
be studied here. The present section will be dedicated to
measurements in solids only.
Several methods have been developed for measuring space charges
in solids. A simple but destructive one is the cutting of slices from the
dielectric and measuring the charge of each slice [16, 17]. Another
method measures the charge displacement when a thermal wave
passes the dielectric [18]. This section will concentrate on two
methods which offer a good estimation of the local charge
concentrations with a reasonable resolution, that is to say the voltage
wave method and the pressure wave method.

4.2 Voltage wave method

In the voltage wave technique [19,20] a short voltage pulse is applied
to the sample. This pulse is in the order of 5 kV crest voltage and 30


ns pulse width. If space charge is present in the sample this charge

experienees a force and a pressure pulse P is generated which travels
to the right-hand and the left-hand electrodes, see figure 4.1. On one
of these electrodes a sensor is placed which detects the pressure
wave. The magnitude and the location of the space charge can be
deduced from the amplitude and the time lag of the signal from the

I + I
I I __
__ -1 ++1-
I + I
.-l + + I----. p
I + I
.-l + + I----.

Fig. 4.1. Voltage wave method for measuring space charge in dielectric bodies. A
high voltage impulse over the electrodes causes a pressure pulse P at alocation with
space charge. The pressure pulse travels as an acoustical wave through the dielectric
and is recorded with a sensor at the electrode.

A signal is also created by the electrodes which are attracted by the

voltage pulse and generate a pressure pulse too. The height and time
of arrival of this pulse depend on the characteristics and the
dimensions of the sample and may serve to calibrate the circuit.
In this way an oscillogram is obtained as shown in figure 4.2. If the
time of arrival is recorded from right to left an exact picture of the
charge distribution is obtained: pand -p in figure 4.2. The electrodes
are represented by the sharp pulses at the edges of the oscillogram.
The time scale is made to coincide with the dimensions of the sample.
In an actuallayout a delay block is used, which delays the arrival of
the acoustic pulse until the disturbances caused by firing the impulse
generator have died away. Further an array of absorption blocks is
added that suppresses the reflections of the pressure wave which
might disturb the measurement. Both blocks and the piezo-electric
film which serves as a sensor are indicated in figure 4.2. The acoustic

interfaces between the different parts must be perfect: without air

pockets, with a minimum of silicon-oil to bring the parts together and
with mirror-smooth surfaces of the metal parts. Building well-
functioning test equipment takes much effort and skill,

I + I I -I
1+ +I -=--... I-I ~
I + I I-I o
1+ +1 I-I o
I + I I-I e.o
1+ +1 I-I rJl
1+1- 1-1 l

1+ +1 I-I
__ - - - - - -
I ,


Fig. 4.2. The voltage wave method in actual use . The pressure pulse caused by
voltage pulse U travels to the electrode. A delay block is used so that the pressure
wave arrives at the piezo-electric sensor after the disturbances of firing the impulse
generator have died out. Absorption blocks prevent unwanted reflections. If time t is
recorded from left to right the oscillogram shows the charge distribution at its true
position x.

The force K which is generated at location x is


and the ensuing pressure

p =~ E = pEb,

where p = the space charge at location x

A = the section of the sample

E = the field strength (caused by the voltage impulse) at

location x
b = the width of the voltage pulse, expressed in mm:
b = v. M,
where v = the propagation velocity of the acoustic pulse in the
dielectric and M is the width of the voltage pulse.
The measured voltage in the oscillogram is

or shorter

u = KQ. p,

thus there is a direct relationship between the height of the

oscillogram u and the measured local space charge p, where KQ is an
overall sensitivity factor.


Factor /(0 can be deducted from the pressure wave created by the
receiving electrode and appears [3] to be

u 1
KQ=A.b U C '

where A is the surface of the electrode

b the width of the pulse mentioned above
u the pulse from the electrode as seen on the
u the amplitude of the high voltage impulse
C the capacitance of the sample, which can either be
measured or ca1culated.


The acoustic wave is attenuated during its propagation through the

dielectric. This attenuation amounts to

Px = poe-ax I

where a is the attenuation factor of the dielectric material.

The attenu ation distorts the oscillogram. This is indicated by a dotted
line in figure 4.2. The wave caused by the left-hand electrode is e- ax
smaller than the (reversed) wave of the right-hand electrode. The
me asured space charges in between can be corrected w ith the aid of
this expression.


The same method can also be used in a coaxiallayout as shown in

figure 4.3. The pressure that is created by a space charge at radius x
decreases with x as this pressure is proportional to the local field
strength E and E in its turn is equal to

Fig. 4.3. Coaxial version of the volt age w ave technique. Becau se perf ect acoustical
interfaces are difficult to achieve a plan -parallel con figuration may be used as we ll
(see dott ed line) .

x ln-

The pressure wave further decreases with .yx as the energy is divided
Over an increasingly larger surface. The ratio between the waves at

the locations x and R amounts to --J R/x. Multiplication of the

expression leads to

U 1
P :: -{R In ~ -p- {X .

The measured pressure is thus again proportional to the space

charge, but decreases with the square root of the radius x of the
location of the space charge. This oscillogram is thus more attenuated
than that of the flat dielectric in figure 4.2.
The curved interfaces between the different blocks are difficult to
make acoustically perfect. Therefore narrow probes which approach
the flat measuring layout shown in figure 4.2 are used as well.


The voltage wave technique offers a relatively simpIe method for

detecting space charge in solid dielectrics. The method acts as a
fictive probe with width b which moves through the dielectric,
making local charges visible on an oscilloscope screen. The
oscillogram can readily be calibrated by the impulses generated at the
The spatial solution of the system is equal to b = vM. If the acoustic
wave velocity is equal to 2 mm/us and the length of the high voltage
pulse is 100 ns the spatial solution is in the order of 0.2 mmo This also
indicates the restrictions of the method: at greater insulation
thicknesses, the distortion of the pulse increases and a less favourable
spatial solution is obtained.


The following test is a good example of the possibilities of this

method. A polyethylene insulated cable was tested at h igh AC
voltage. Simultaneously, the voltage wave test was applied. Th e
voltage wave was either superimposed on the crest of the AC
voltage, see figure 4.4 (result a), or at the zero level (result b), or on
the negative crest of the AC voltage (result c) [21]. The results are

clear: at the crests of the AC voltage, the surface charges at the

electrodes are weIl visible and no space charges are present: results a
and c. During the zero crossings neither surface charges nor space
charges are apparent: result b.

R _mm r Fig. 4.4. Observation of charges on the

electrodes with the voltage wave
o ~II
1 method . The test at (a) coincides with
+ the positive crest of an AC voltage. The
20 test at (b) coincides with the zero points
o and that at (c) with the negative crest of
0 0
the AC voltage. R = outer conductor, r =
20 inner conductor, AC stress 10 kV /mm.
o ~\ \~
o 400 800 1200 1600 2000

4.3 Pressure wave method

The pressure wave method is the logical counterpart of the voltage
wave technique [22, 23, 24]. This time the pressure wave is not
received from the dielectric but a heavy pressure wave is forwarded
into the sample, see figure 4.5. If a charge is present this will be
moved and a simultaneous shift of charge will occur at the electrodes.
Two situations are now possible: (1) the electrodes are short-circuited
and the charge-shift is presented as a current which can be shown to
be proportional to the local charge in the dielectric, or (2) the
electrodes are open and a voltage results which will be shown to be
proportional to the local field strength. "Local" in these cases means
the location where the pressure pulse arrived at the moment of
observation, see region ~x in figure 4.5.

: + P + :
I + + + I
I + + I
I + + I
I + + I
I + + I ~areaA
I + + I

I. x
s .1
Fig. 4.5. Pressure wave method for measuring space charge. The pressure wave of
width LU has an impact on an area with space charge Pand creates a charge
displacement K"in the electrode.

The charge displacement fix at the electrodes is

1/ e - Cl / + xp) / e' A ~
-irtp LU,
s e

in accordance with appendix 2, where

e = dielectric constant of the dielectric
e' = dielectric constant of the compressed dielectric
X = compressibiIity of the medium
p = pressure of the pressure wave
v = velocity of the wave
p = space charge at location X,
X, Sx, s and r follow from figure 4.5.

1. This expression can be simplified by introducing

0= l/e- (1 + xp)/e'

so that the charge displacement is

s e -pSx
!l l(= - /

2. The simplification ean be performed in another way by

assuming that e E', so that

which proves that L1Kis aboui proporiional to the pressure p.

We now introduee the two situations with ehort-circuited and with

open terminals of the sample.

a. Short-circuited terminals

The terminals are short-cireuited over a eurrent-measuring device

with an extremely low impedanee and the eurrent i is reeorded.


._ A d K _ A d K . dx
1- dl - ett: dl'

where A is the surfaee of the eleetrodes.


dl =v


. AD 2
s E v -t-p,


i = eonst p.

There is a direct relationship between the current i in the short-

circuited terminals and the space charge p at the location of the incident
pressure wave.

b. Open terminals

In this case the terminals remain open and the voltage V between the
terminals is recorded with a high-ohmie measuring device. The
charge displacement ~K' at the terminals causes now a voltage drop
~ V at the terminals:

where C is the capacitance of the sample. The farmer expression for

~ K' is used sa tha t

1 vr8
~V= - A - p Sx
C slE I

and with


it follows that


After integration:

V = vr8 f p L1x.

The integral is according to Maxwell equal to the flux density Dx at

location x. With Dx = EE x it follows that

V= v r8eE x


V = Const - Ex .

There is consequently a direct relationship between the recorded

voltage V at the open terminals and the charge-induced field Ex at the
location x of the incident pressure wave.

In actual tests these relations are somewhat more complicated:

a. The pressure wave is not square which leads to a less well-

defined image of pand E.
b. The external circuits are not completely "open" or "short-
circuited" and the observation tools are not ideal. This also
leads to some uncertainty.
c. The pressure wave is attenuated and its path through the
dielectric is distorted. The effect of the attenuation can be
corrected as shown for the voltage wave technique. The
distortion creates a broader wave so that the images of pand
E become less sharp; if needed reconvolution techniques are


An example of results obtained with this method is shown in figure

4.6. Adielectric with a floating electrode F was tested in an open
circuit condition, so that the field strengths in the dielectric could be
determined. In curve (a) a defined charge was injected in the floating
electrode at a distance a from the ma in electrode, in case (b) the
floating electrode was situated at a distance b. The straight lines show
the ca1culated field strengths, the dots show the field strengths as
measured with the pressure wave technique (after a deconvolution
process to allow for the imperfect wave) [22]. It can be seen from
these pictures that the measured values follow the calculated values
weIl and that the sharp transients in field strength at the floating
electrode are correctly recorded.

.. . Fig. 4.6. The pressure wave method (if

. -~.-l;~------ used with open electrodes) displays the
local field strength, in the dielectric. Full
E line: calculated field distribution caused

~ . . by a surface charge at a distance a or b

from the electrode. Dots: field strength
r-_ _ b_ _ ~ (b)
measured with the pressure wave
. technique.


The system can be calibrated by emitting a pressure wave whilst a

high DC voltage of known magnitude Ucal is applied to the elec-
trodes. This voltage creates a surface charge Kcal, where Kcal can be
derived from Ucal. This surface charge is recorded as an impulse on
the oscillogram at the site of the electrode, see figure 4.7. The impulse
has a height hand (due to the finite length of the pressure wave) a
width b. If this impulse is approximated by a triangle the surface
charge Kcal corresponds to

Kcal = c- 2" h-b,


2 Kcal

where c is the scale factor of the y-coordinate of the oscillogram (e.g.

in !lC/cm3 per mm). This scale factor can th en be used throughout
the tests to derive the measure space charge by

p = cy (in !lCI cm 3 ).

The scale factor for the field strength Ex is derived in a similar way.

-- --

-- --

Fig. 4.7. Calibrating the pressure wave circuit. A known DC voltage Ucal is applied
to the electrode. The pressure pulse P causes a current i which is proportional to the
surface charge Kcal at the electrodes. The scale factor C (in IlC/cm 2 per mm deviation)
can be derived from the deflection in the oscillogram.

Coaxial samples

In contrast to the voltage wave method a coaxial sample, such as

cab Ie, cannot be tested in a coaxiallayout. The pressure wave travels
longitudinally through the dielectric as shown in figure 4.8. The same
formulae as for flat samples apply, although the results are somewhat
affected by the divergence of the beam.

Fig. 4.8. The pressure wave method

applied to cylindrical models operates
almost as a flat model.

Actual equipment

Laser pulse - A laser pulse is used to create the short pressure pulses
[24]. An Nd-Yag laser with 1.061l wavelength is aimed at alto 2 cm 2
metal surface, e.g. aluminium. The energy of the laser beam is in the
order of 109 W /m 2 and causes immediate evaporation of the
aluminium surface. A heavy pressure pulse is generated in this way.
The duration of the pressure pulse is about 1 ns for testing thin films
and 5 to 10 ns for testing cable insulation.
Resoluiion - At a wave velocity of Zmrrr/us this leads to aresolution
of 2 Il in thin films and 10 to 20 Il in cable insulation.
Sensitivity - The sensitivity for space charges is estimated to be in the
order of 1 JlC/cm3 . The sensitivity for surface charges is in the order of
10 IlC/m2; that is less sensitive than with the static method discussed
in the previous chapter. It should, however, be remembered that the
statie method can only be applied to surfaces under oil or gas which
are physieally accessible.
Electrodes - The pressure wave is emitted from the aluminium laser
target to one of the electrodes and from this to the dielectric. The
interfaces should be carefully constructed. Electrodes are sometimes
made of a stiff material or are not well connected to the dielectric.
Unexpected reflections or loss of energy may arise. Good results have
been obtained with the semi-conducting sereens in cable construc-
tions. These sereens are well attached to the dielectrie material and
possess about the same acoustical characteristics, so that a fluent
transition takes place.
Wave velocity - The propagation velocity of the wave amounts to
about 2 mm per microsecond in polymers: in polyethylene 1.95
mm/jis has been measured, in Teflon 2.3 mm/jis. The velocity in
ceramic materials is in the order of 3 to 6 mm/jis,
Bandwidth - The amplifiers and oscilloscopes are normal commer-
cially available instruments. For testing thin films a bandwidth of 1
GHz is required, for cable insulation 200 MHz has been reported.

Condition of the electrodes

The condition of the electrodes - open, short-circuited or otherwise

- has an effect on the charge at the electrodes. Three conditions are
possible, these are shown in figure 4.9.

Fig. 4.9. Three different diagrams

+ /+ 1- I while measuring space charge. In (a) a
+ 1+/1---1
+ 1\+1-_-/ weil defined surface charge appears at
+ the electrodes and can be used for
+ /+++/--1
- calibration. In (b) the situation at the
+ 1+ +1--1
electrodes is indistinct. In (c) mirror
u= charges occur at the electrodes which
are in balance with the space charges
in the dielectric.


- I +I I-I +
- 1+/1 +
- ':1 +
- 1+++1 1::::1 +
- 1+++1 I-I +
- 1+ +1 1=1 +


a. The DC voltage U that has formed the space charge is still at

the electrodes. A surface charge te = e-E is present and is
correctly recorded by the test equipment.
b. The electrodes are open and the DC voltage is switched off.
The electrodes are floating. Space charge, if present, will be
correctly recorded. The surface charge at the electrodes,
however, is non-defined and cannot be used for calibration.

c. The electrodes are short-circuited. Surface charges appear on

the electrodes which are mirror charges of the space charge
near the electrode. The magnitude of these discharges is
difficult to predict.

It follows from these cases that only situation (a) can be used for a
well-defined calibration.

4.4 Space charge formation

For the generation of space charges in solids, a distinction must be
made in homogenecue materials, such as polymers, and in taped
insulations, such as oil-impregnated paper. The generation of space
charge in taped insulation has already been described in section 2.5
and appendix I, so that the present section is restricted to polymers.

In the study of space charge generation in polymers three items are of


conduction. i.e. movement of charges in the dielectric

injection, i.e. emission or extraction of charges from the
trapping, i.e. fastening of charge carriers to discrete
locations at the polymer chains

These mechanisms are known from solid state physics and from
research on crystals. Although polymers are not crystalline in this
sense, the notions of solid state physics can well be used for the
description of the phenomena in polymers. A study of the molecular
structure of a polymer is therefore needed. This will be made here for
the example of polyethylene, which is one of the most widely used

Structure of polyethylene

Polyethylene consists of long-chain molecules of CH2-groups, as

shown in figure 4.10. Sometimes side chains occur which disturb the

regular shape of the macro molecules. The main chains have a length
of thousands to tens of thousands CH2-groups [25,26]. These chains
run partly parallel to themselves or to other chains, see figure 4.10.
These parallel regions form the crystalline part of the polymer. For
another part of their length, the chains follow an arbitrary path and
create amorphous regions. In _these amorphous regions additives, such
as impurities and anti-oxidants, are accumulated. This has an impor-
tant effect on the formation of space charge as will be seen later.

-c-c-c-c-c-c- c-c-c-c-c-c-c-


Fig. 4.10. Structure of polyethylene.

The percentage of the volume that is occupied by the crystalline

regions is called the crystallinity. The crystallinity affects the charac-
teristics of the material, for instanee the density. The density of the
crystalline regions is, as might be expected from the dense packing of
the molecules, higher than that of the amorphous regions. The
density of polyethylene thus increases with the crystallinity. This has
affected the terminology: polyethylene with about 55% crystallinity is
called Low Density Poly Ethylene: LDPE. Polyethylene with 90%
crystallinity is called High Density Poly Ethylene: HPDE. The
mechanical differences are large: HPDE is a stiff material, LDPE is
flexible and can be better used for cables. Some characteristics are
given below [25] (see table).

Density [g/cm 3 ] 0.92 0.95
Crystallinity 55% 90%
Young's modulus 200-400 600-1500
Yield strength [MPa] 10-20 25-50
Ultimate strength [MPa] 15-25 35-55
Elongation at fracture 400-700% 100-600%
Electrical resistivity ~ 1015 Om > 1018 Om

The amorphous regions conduct charges far better than the crystal-
line ones, so that the specific resistivity of polyethylene depends
largelyon the crystallinity as shown in the tab Ie above. This is
important for the generation of space charge and for the time
constants that are involved in generating these space charges.

Insulators and conductors

Why are some materials good conductors and other materials good
insulators? The explanation of this difference gives an understanding
of the behaviour of polymers subjected to electric fields [27, 28]. The
explanation is based on the atom model of Niels Bohr: a number of
electrons move in separate orbits around the nucleus of an atom. Not
every orbit is possible; a limited number of orbits which are situated
at discrete distances from the nucleus are available. An electron may
leap from one orbit to another, it cannot move in between; every orbit
represents a distinct energy level.
The available orbits appear to be concentrated in energy bands where
these orbits are situated close together, see figure 4.11.
There are two important energy bands: the valenee band and the
conduction band. In the valenee band the electrons are firrnly coupled
to the atom. They can leave this band only by means of chemical
processes: e.g. two hydrogen atoms lose an electron each (H+ and
H+) and one oxygen atom receives these electrons (0-) in which case
water is formed.


I e

\0: electron


Fig. 4.11. Energy levels of electrons.

The upper band in figure 4.11 is the conduction band. Electrons in this
band can easily leap from one atom to the other; they are, as it were,
jointly owned electrons. Metals form an extreme example of this
situation where the electrons of the conduction band repre sent an
electronic gas, which explains the great conductivity of metals.

Between these two bands lies a forbidden area, the band gap. No
electrons can occur in this band gap. An electron from the valenee
band can reach the conduction band only if it obtains sufficient
energy (thermal or otherwise) to pass the forbidden band gap in one
single leap.
The same consideration is valid for "holes". In the example of
hydrogen H + the vanished electron leaves a hole, which represents a
positive charge. If such a "hole" wants to join the conduction band it
must also pass the forbidden band gap in one single leap.
It follows from these considerations that the conductivity of a
material depends on the size of the band gap. If this gap is large it is
extremely improbable that an electron can pass the gap and add to
the conductivity. The width of this gap is expressed in electron volts:
the number of volts that is required for an electron to leap over the
band gap. (One eV represents an energy of - 100 k] per mol).
The resisti"ityof a material is then equal to

a= enJ1,

where e is the charge of a carrier, e.g. 1.6.10-19 C for an electron, n is

the concentration in number of carriers per m 3 and u is the mobility
of the charge carriers, expressed in velocity per kV /mm.
The concentration n varies with the band gap, from 1029 for good
conductors with a narrow band gap to almost zero for a good
insulator where the gap is so large that hardly any electron can pass
this barrier. The mobility n varies far less, some decades only.
The result of these considerations can be seen in the following table

concentration resistivity
e1ectrons oer m 3 Qm
CONDUCTOR narrow < 0.2eV 1027 to 1029 10-7 to 10-6
SEMI- restricted 0.2 to 2 eV 1011 to 1026 10-5 to 1010
INSULATOR wide >2eV o to 10 10 1011 to 1020

The crystalline regions of polyethylene are, according to the theory,

above pure insulators, the specific resistivity is at least 1020 n.m. They
do not contribute to the conductivity of the polymer. Conduction, if
any, takes pi ace in the amorphous regions . This will be further
discussed below.

Amorphous regions

In the amorphous regions defects occur in the crystal structure,

where a positive or a negative ion is missing. These defects form traps
for charge carriers. A trap for electrons is called an acceptor, a trap for
holes a donor. The charge carriers remain there for some time until
they partake again in the conduction. The time which carriers spend
in their traps depends on the depth of these traps. The depth of a trap
is defined as the energy needed to liberate a charge carrier.
If many and shallow traps are present a good conductivity can be
expected, the deeper the traps the lower the conductivity.

Another type of trap is the self-trap. This type of trap is thought to

occur in polymers. The field of a free electron affects the structure of
a molecular chain and causes alocal potential drop. The electron is
attracted by this potential drop and it traps, in a manner of speaking,
In this type of trapping, no countercharge is present as had been the
case with donors or acceptors. Consequently, formation of space
charge takes pi ace, an important characteristic when dealing with DC
fields. The self-traps are often deep and keep the charges for a
considerable time, up to many hours, or even days.
The occurrence of these traps is related to the additives in polymers,
which tend to concentrate in the amorphous regions. These additives
consist of (1) anti-oxidants which are added to the material to
counteract thermal ageing (2) residues of the chemical processes
during production and (3) impurities which cannot be prevented in
any material. Small differences in additives can have large effects in
the number of traps, so that the ability to store space charge is greatly
affected by the type and concentration of additives.

To explain the conduction of the amorphous parts of the molecular

chains the theory of hopping has been devised. There are many
dislocations in the chain, where an electron can be trapped. The
potential barrier between two traps is so high that an electron cannot
pass this barrier. However, from the point of view of quantum
mechanics, the position of an electron can also be regarded as the
probability that an electron is located on the other side of the barrier.
This probability depends on the distance between traps. As this
distance is small, less than 1 nm, the probability differs from zero, so
that an electron can sometimes appear on the other side of the
barrier. This is called tunnelling, the electron digs, as it were, a tunnel
through the potential barrier. The conductivity that is caused by this
process has been calculated to be

Q"= A. e 1"',

where A and Bare constants, n =~ and T is the temperature.


It follows that

a. The conductivity is not dependent on the field strength, the

conduction is ohmic.
b. The conductivity increases with increasing temperature.
c. The conductivity depends on the crystallinity: the (5 applies
to amorphous regions only, (5 is lower at higher crystallinity.

These three conc1usions agree with actual observations.


The conduction and the emission of charges in polyethylene are

mainly performed by electrons, not by ions. Injection of electrons at
the cathode and extraction of electrons at the anode are the main
mechanisms for the emission of charges in polyethylene. This also
applies to other polymers. A different group of polymers, however,
emits and conducts "holes".
Electron transmission takes place in polyethylene (PE), polyethylene
terephtelate (PET) and polyethylene naphthalene (PEN). Trans-
mission by holes takes place in ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA), fluor
ethylene propylene (FEP) and Teflon (PTFE) [28].
For there to be emission of a charge, a barrier has to be passed as
shown in figure 4.12. The required energy W for electrons is
according to this figure


and for holes

W= Eg-cp+ X,

where cp and X are the work functions for bringing a charge to the free
level of vacuum.

- . - - - - - , - - vacuum -ooor-----..--
-x -<1>1 xI
,..----'-- insulator

Fig. 4.12. Barrier at the interface between electrode and dielectric. An electron has to
pass a barrier Ij> - X to be injected in the dielectric, a hole has to pass a barrier Eg - Ij> +
X to be extracted.

Injection - The injection of electrons is mainly caused by ihermal

emission, This applies to field strengths up to 200 to 300 kV /mm;
above that value field emiseion takes place, but then the intrinsic
breakdown voltage has almost been reached. The mechanisms of
thermal emission and field emission have already been described for
vacuum insulation, see volume I, sections 4.2 and 4.3 [1].
Extraction - The extraction of electrons, or in other words injection of
"holes" is less weU understood than the injection of electrons. Tests
with positive needies with high local fields around the needie have
shown that a distinct extraction of electrons takes place, so that a
positive space charge is formed in the vicinity of the needle.

The emission of electrons is (as mentioned above) a thermalone, but

thermal emission is facilitated by applying higher field strengths. The
emission current i increases according to Schottky with temperature
Tand field strength E:

-w +~ f3{E
i = AT2 . exp [ kT ] ,
- -----=--
------=-- -=---="---- -- - - - - - - - - ---------


where A and f3 are constants and W is the energy barrier between

electrode and dielectric. The thermal emission current is shown as a
function of field strength in figure 4.13 for one chosen value of Wand
for T = 313 K [27]. In the same figure it is shown how field emission
takes over at a field strength of about 230 kV/mm.

Fig. 4.13. T = thermal emission as a

function of field strength, F = field
emission as a function of field strength,
both for one combination of electrode
and dielectric materials and for T =
313 K.

10.9 +----.--.---,--,-----,r--!
o 100 200 300

A third mechanism of injection occurs if a cavity is present where

partial discharges occur. An electron bombardment takes place at one
of the interfaces. These electrons possess energies up 20 to 25 eV and
may penetrate the dielectric over a depth of 0.1 u, so that con-
siderable amounts of space charge can be injected. Tests on models
with artificial cavities show an appreciabie increase of polarisation. In
figure 4.14 the polarisation current of a model with and without
cavity is shown. In both cases the current stabilized after about six
hours, but the polarization current was at times twice as large if a
discharging cavity was present.

Fig. 4.14. Polarization current for a field

10 strength of 30 kV /mm De for poly-
ethylene samples with and without a
discharging cavity.

2 345 6
hours -

Space charge formation

There are two possibilities.

1. Insufficient injection: the electrons move faster through the

dielectric than they are supplied by the cathode. A layer is
generated where insufficient electrons are present and a
positive space charge is formed: hetero charges in figure 4.15.
The field strength at the cathode is amplified by this charge
and the electron emission at the electrode increases (with exp
-JE as shown above). The positive space charge decreases
and is more evenly distributed, so that af ter a while a
balance is reached.

Fig. 4.15. Sample with hetero charges.

+ +
0----; +

A similar process occurs at the anode with the (less known)

extraction of electrons. Thin layers of hetero charges are
formed here, see the right-hand side of figure 4.15.
On both sides of the dielectric, the charges are trapped in the
amorphous regions of the polymer. If this were not the case
the charge would soon vanish after removal of the voltage
and no enduring space charge would remain.
2. Too much injection: more electrons are injected in the dielee-
tric than can be carried off, A space charge is generated
which has the same polarity as the cathode: a homo charge as
shown in figure 4.16. The field strength at the cathode de-
creases until a balance is reached. A similar process may take
place at the anode, as shown in figure 4.16. It should be ern-
phasized, however, that homo or hetero charges do not nee-
essarily arise at both electrodes at the same time. No charge
at all may occur at one electrode, or a charge similar to that
w hich occurs at the opposite electrode ma y occur as well.

Fig. 4.16. Sample with homo charges.


Again, the charges that occur are trapped in the amorphous



At high field strengths (> 70 kV/mm) the leakage current may start
to oscillate, see figure 4.17 [35]. Oscillation is often a precursor of
breakdown, as shown in the figure for 100 kV/mm. The oscillations
are caused by clouds of space charge that run away from the cathode.
The formation of space charge causes the field strength to fall below
the Skottky barrier, the injection stops and the space charge runs off,
the injection is restored, etc. This causes great local changes in field
strength which may lead to breakdown.

t 60
Fig. 4.17. Sample with internai di s-
charges, near the breakdown stress.
i(nA) Oscillations in the ieakage current may
wam against breakdown.


o -r---.-----.--.,---{
o 20 40 60 ao

4.5. Actualobservations

Cable insulation

Many tests have been carried out on plastic insulated cab les with
semi-conducting screens. The sereens were of the same construction
as those used for AC cables and shown in volume I, section 9.8.
A currently occurring charge distribution is that shown in figure 4.18
[29 to 32]: hetero charges appear which are either concentrated at the
electrodes (full line) or are more diffuse (dotted line). It takes some
hours to accumulate the full charge, see figure 4.19 [21].



Fig. 4.18. Currently occurring charge distribution, either concentrated (fullline) or

diffuse (dotted line).

At low stresses (~ 5 kV /mm) no appreciable charge has been

measured, from 5 kV /mm to 30 kV /mm the accumulated space
charge increases with the field strength, see figure 4.20 [29]. This type
of distribution has often (but not always) been found for low density
polyethylene LDPE, for ethylene propylene rubber EPR and
crosslinked polyethylene XLPE. The increase in field strength caused
by these space charges was appreciable, 10% to 30% of the original
field strength.


t 1.2 -r= 5: 480 min.

4: 240mrn .
0.8 3: 100 min.
'"E 2: 10 min.
0.4 1: o min.
c: -0.4
-0.8 +
III oute r inner
.s::: -1.2
0 electrode electrode
9mm thickness 7mm

Fig. 4.19. Growth of space charges in XLPE, E '" 25 kV/mm De. Mirror charges
induced by the space charge can be seen at the electrodes.

30 kV/mm/
/ , 5,

o 2

Fig. 4.20. Space charge in LDPE after about 250 h for three different volta ges.

/ +


Fig. 4.21. Space charge in LDPE after about 280 hand 15 kV/mm. The same test was
performed with LDPE the same specification but from a different manufacturer; a
distribution as in figure 4.18 (dotted line) was the result.

As has been said, the time required to charge the dielectric amounted
to several hours. The time required to discharge the dielectric,
however, is far longer. Cases have been reported where a length of
AC cable was tested on site at high DC voltage. The cable was
removed, shipped and re-installed in a laboratory, where it was
found that quite high DC voltages reappeared some months later.
Apparently charge carriers are preserved in deep traps in the
amorphous regions of the polyethylene, which charges take a long
time to be liberated.

Deviations from the trend

Small changes in the composition of the dielectric or of the electrodes

may seriously change the charge distribution. For instance, two
cables with LDPE insulation were tested. Both LDPEs satisfied the
same specification, but came from different manufacturers. One cable
showed a distinct hetero charge distribution as in figure 4.18, the
other deviated from that pattern, see figure 4.22 [29]. Although the
crystallinity and the measured characteristics were equal, the
residues and additives concentrated in the amorphous regions were
different and caused considerable differences in the number, type
and depth of the traps.


t 0.2 P
E 0.1

:::t +
0 20 40 60 80 100
% insulation thickness _



~ 0.1

0 20 40 60 80 100
% insulation thickness _

Fig . 4.22. Space charge in XLPE after 3 days, 20 kV /mm and 70 oe. Curve L: the
electrodes consist of a low-conductive compound with a low carbon-content. Curve
H: a highly conductive one with much carbon-black.

The materials of the semi-conducting sereens were varied as wen.

Two cables with identical XLPE insulation and different semi-
conducting sereens were compared [18]. One screen consisted of low-
conductive material, i.e. with a low content of carbon black, see figure
4.22line L.
The other screen was better conducting with a higher carbon black
content, see line H in this figure. The charge distributions were
measured after three days at 20 kV /mm and 70 oe. Construction L
with low conductive material shows the normal tendency for hetero
charges, whereas construction H shows a distribution which is almost
the opposite of L. The injection and extraction were apparently more
intense than the dielectric could handle so that homo charges were

generated. The charge regions in the middle of the insulation also

changed sign.
The magnitude of the space charge, 0.2 IlC/cm3 was modest; the
effect on the field strength appeared to be in the order of 10 to 15%.

The results with HDPE, e.i. polyethylene with high crystallinity, were
noteworthy as high values of space charge were measured and the
local field strengths increased 3 times, in extreme cases even to 10
times the original value [33]. The time constant for the charge
accumulation was difficult to determine but was in the order of
hundreds of hours. HDPE is apparently a material that is not weU
suited to De applications.

Films for capacitors

Another dielectric that has received much attention is polymer film

for high voltage capacitors. Films in the order of 10 to 50 11 thickness
are of interest, the resolution of the measurement method had to be
brought down to about 211.
An example of such a test [34] is shown in figure 4.23. The foil has a
thickness of 50 11 the dielectric is polyethylene terephtelate and the
electrodes consist of evaporated aluminum. The film was stressed for
some tens of minutes with a DC-field strength of 240 kV/mm, quite
near the breakdown voltage. The pressure pulse test was performed
without DC voltage and with short-circuited electrodes. The space
charge caused mirror-image charges at the electrode, which were
recorded as 2 11 thick layers because of the resolution of the
measuring system. The space charges in the dielectric were homo
charges with a maximum at about -200 IlC / cm 3 . The charge-induced
field is also shown in figure 4.23. The homo charges relieve the field
at the electrodes, but the effect is modest: not more than 5% of the
(very high) test voltage.


t +100


0 10 20 30 40

E 0
..:.:: -4


Fig. 4.23. Space charge in a 50 ~ Mylar film after 10 min and 240 kV /mm. The charge
induced field E is shown in the lower graph.


The examples above are incidental cases of charge formation. They

do not provide a general picture, but some tendency might be
perceived. First, the more high-ohmie the material is, the greater the
space charge: compare the high-ohmie HDPE with LDPE and EPR.
Second, the purer the material is the lesser the space charge: compare
LDPE or EPR with XLPE where additives and residues are left by the
crosslinking process. It has also been reported in literature that no
space charge is formed if the usual anti-oxidants in polyethylene are
left out. (This does not, however, solve the problem as in that case the
thermal ageing becomes unacceptable).

The effect of field strength is insofar c1ear that a higher stress E leads
in generaI to more space charge; there is, however, no proportionality
and the shape of the distribution may change with the field strength.
The effect of temperature is in generaI that higher temperatures T
favour injection and rnight affect the charge distribution in this way.
General rules to predict the intensity and the distribution of space
charge can, however, not bee-n given.
Chapter 5
Partial discharges, detection

The occurrence and behaviour of partial discharges at DC voltage

depend on the stage which has been reached according to figure 5.l.
A fast-changing field occurs in stages I, IV or V and the discharges
behave in a manner similar to that at AC voltage. A constant field
occurs in stages III and VII and the discharge sequence becomes
typical for DC voltage. In the intermediate stages, Il and VI, the
discharges have a DC character, driven by the polarization current.
Both characteristics, AC and DC, are discussed here.


- 1/1



' .........


Fig. 5.1. Stages when switching and reversing a De voltage.

5.1 Discharges in the capacitive stage

While raising the voltage discharges occur which are energized by
the capacitive field. A recurrent discharge phenomenon appears (in a
way similar to AC discharges) and the well-known abc diagram can
be used, see volume I section 9.4 [1] and volume Il section 9.1 [2]. The
situation is shown in figure 5.2. The voltage v over the object is
divided over the capacitances band c and results in a voltage vc over
the defect. This defect breaks down if the breakdown voltage u of the


defect is reached. This leads to a series of discharges as shown in

figure 5.2. The repetition rate (or discharge intensity) n is in the order

b dv 1
n~-- .-
e dt u'

Fig. 5.2. Generation of partial discharges when raising a De voltage.

i.e. the discharge frequency increases with inereasing steepness dv I dt

of the applied voltage. It decreases with increasing insulation
thickness (b then being small) and increasing breakdown voltage u of
the defect. This discharge frequency is usually many times larger
than that found in stages 1Ior lIl.
Stage I is often neglected by investigators, the initial stage is ignored
and recordings are started only after the dielectric has been stabilised
to reach stage lIl. This is not always right: if the construction in
question is often switched on and off in service conditions, the initial
stage I is of importance and should be measured. This is to a greater
extent true for constructions which are used in frequent on/off
situations. X-ray equipment, for instance, is sometimes energized in
cycles of several seconds; hundreds of thousands of such cycles take
place during the life-time of the eguipment. This corresponds to a
square AC wave with amplitude u, see figure 5.3. As discharge
detection with square waves is difficult to perform, it is
recommended to test the insulation with 50(60) Hz AC at an ~ ft test
voltage. The well-developed techniques for discharge detection with
AC are then available and can be used, see volume 1I sections 9.2 and

9.3. The duration of the test must, however, be restricted, as a mere 10

minutes of testing consumes 30.000 cycles of the life of the

Fig 5.3. Energizing x-ray equipment

with short cycles of voltage U . The
insuiation experiences a DC voltage of &
U, superposed with a square-wave AC
voltage of 2" U crest voltage.

5.2 Discharges in the resistive stages

In the resistive stages an altogether different mechanism of discharge
repetition is found. The classic abc diagram is now extended with
leakage resistances as shown in figure 5.4. If these resistances are
linear (which is not always the case) a slowly growing voltage Vc over
the defect occurs which is equal to

v - Re .(1 - e-t/T). V
e - Rb + Re '

where V is the full De voltage over the sample and r is a time

constant which is indicated in figure 5.5.

Fig 5.4. The classic abc diagram

extended with ieakage resistances.


vs +-- - - - - - - - - - ---:=---
-- ---
u --t------::;or----::::;oor-

Fig. 5.5. Repetition of partiaI discharges generated by De voltage.

Every time V c reaches the breakdown voltage u of the defect, a

discharge takes place and the charging cyele starts again, as shown in
figure 5.5. The time between two discharges, the recovery time tr , can
be derived from this diagram and amounts to

t r = -vrln (1 -~)
Vs '

where u is the breakdown voltage of the defect and V s is the

asymptotic value of the voltage over the defect, i.e. the voltage that
eventually would be reached if the defect did not break down, see
figure 5.5. This asymptotic value Vs is equal to

The formula above demonstrates that the notion "inception voltage"

does not exist for DC: if the voltage over the sample is raised until the
voltage over the defect just reaches the breakdown voltage, e.i. V s = u,
a discharge occurs but the recovery time tr = and one has to wait

indefinitely for the next discharge. In the case of AC, at least one
discharge per period occurs so that at least 50 discharges per second
appear, which can elearly be observed on an oscilloscope. This is not
the case with DC and the voltage should further be increased until

sufficient discharges occur to be observed. For the definition of the

inception voltage at De, an arbitrary limit can be set for the number of
discharges that mark the inception level. In some official
specifications, it is stated that the inception voltage is reached if more
than one discharge per minute is observed. But even this specification
does not set a sharp limit, .as it is fairly difficult to distinguish one
discharge per minute from disturbing pulses in the mains or the
detection circuit.

Repetition rate

In the formula above the factor V s / u can be defined as the voltage-

excess factor x, where

asymptotic voltage V over the defect

x-- breakdown voltage su of the defect '

but this factor is also equal to

voltage over the sample

x = inception voltage of the sample (at i; = 00) .

If this is entered [3] in the expression for the recovery time

t r = -vr ln (1--)

and if it is remembered that

1 1 1 1
-In (I-x) =x + 2x2 + 3x2

it follows that for large x

from x = 5 onwards the error is less than 10%.


In actual cases this often comes true: if the walls of the cavity in
figure 5.4 have no conductivity, e.i. Re = 00, the voltage over the defect
approximates (Re/(R t + Re))V ~ V and the voltage over the defect is
almost as large as that over the sample.

The discharge frequency or repetitian rate n is the inverse of the recovery

time t;

so that the discharge frequency increases almost linearly with the

voltage over the sample. See also appendix 3.

In this expression is

or if the defect itself is non-conducting: Re = 00

Then r = Rb (b + c), so that

n = =(b-+-c"7":)R=-b

and if all other circumstances remain the same n is proportional to

i/Rb so that

where as is the conductivity of the dielectric.

Or introducing the leakage current iR:

n:: iR,

The discharge frequency is thus (for one and the same defect at constant
voltage) propartianal ta the leakage current of the dielectric [35].

This re sult is of great importance for the discharge behaviour with

DC voltage: during stage II the discharge frequency follows the polarization
current which gradually changes into the ultimate leakage current of
stage lll. The discharge frequency thus changes in time with a time
constant which depends on the insulation material and may vary
from some rninutes to many hours.

In actual cases this situation is somewhat more complicated. The

breakdown does not exactly take place at voltage u. A small delay
time ti occurs while waiting for a starting electron to appear and the
breakdown takes place at a voltage Vi higher than u, see figure 5.6.
This delay time and the overvoltage are not constant and vary from
discharge to discharge. Moreover, the voltage over the defect does
not drop to zero, but ceases at a residual voltage V r , which is not
constant either. Consequently, the time between discharges and the
d ischarge magnitude varies from discharge to discharge. This scatter
in time and magnitude will be studied later, in section 5.5.



Fig. 5.6. Waiting for a starting electron during time t[ causes the voltage over the
defect to rise to Vi. Then breakdown takes place and the voltage drops to V r Bath the
time-lag t and the discharge magnitude q vary from discharge to discharge.

On the average, however, the statement above holds true. This may
be illustrated by the example given in figure 5.7, where results are
shown for a cavity of 0.3 x 3 mm in polyethylene [35]. The repetition
rate n closely follows the polarization current ip.

1000 ......- - - - - - - - - , 100,------------,

~n1t i
100 \ 31
20 kV



1 +------,----,--.------1 0.1+------,----,--.------1
o 60 120 180 240 0 60 120 180 240
min_ min-

Fig. 5.7. The discharge frequency n closely follows the polarization current ip. Cavity
in polyethylene, 0.3 x3 mm, sample thickness 1 mmo

5.3 Discharge detection

Detection of discharges at DC is performed in exactly the same way
as for AC. A discharge q in a sample generates a high-frequency
pulse of height f> in the detection circuit, regardless of whether this
discharge has been generated by a DC or an AC voltage. This means
that the theories and techniques which have so extensively been
developed for AC discharge detection are valid for DC as well. This
refers to:

non-electrical detection, see volume I section 8.5,

electrical detection, volume II sections 9.2 and 9.3,
discharge location, volume II pages 150 to 156.

The basic diagram for detecting discharges is shown in figure 5.8. The
circuit has been divided into four parts, which will be further
discussed below. Three parts are identical to those for AC detection:

the detection circuit

the detection impedance or "quadripole"
the amplifier

De source
circuit quadripole observation

f - - - - - - (a) --------11~ (b)-I

Fig. 5.8. Circuit for detecting DC discharges: (a) the lef! hand part of the circuit is
identical to that for AC discharges. (b) the observation unit is specific for DC

The fourth part differs basically from that of AC as the 50(60) Hz time
base is missing:

The observation unit


The detection circuit can be a straight circuit as shown here in figure

5.8 or a balanced circuit as described below. When building this circuit,
it should not be forgotten to place a coupling capacitor k of the same
order of magnitude as the sample a. This capacitor forms a path for
the high-frequency pulses; the need for this capacitor follows from
the expression for the detected pulse [36]:

D =a + C (1 + al k) .

If the capacitance k approaches zero, f) approaches zero as well and

no signal is received.
It further follows from this expression that the detected pulse f) is
proporiional to the discharge magnitude q, so that (after calibration) a
direct measurement of the discharge magnitude can take place.

Further signal f) decreases directly proportional to the sample

capacitance a and the circuit noise decreases proportional to ...ra. By
careful choosing the quadripole the smallest detectable discharge may
increase proportional to...ra as has been shown in [36] and in volume II
section 9.2.

A balanced detector may be used as shown in figure 5.9. This detector

has the great advantage that disturbances and unwanted discharge
signals from outside the sample can be reduced, so that a better
sensitivity is achieved. Moreover, discharges can be located in different
parts of more complicated samples. For more details see [36] and
volume II section 9.3. Excellent results have been obtained in this way
with a 400 kV De submarine cable [37].

a a'
~ ~'1
+ cfj:

~ ==
r-- --,
V V -L
I ;;; lte 1"1 R' I
'--- ----'

Fig. 5.9. Balanced detection for DC discharges. The bridge is identical to that for AC
discharges and can be balanced by varying Rand C. A balanced bridge rejects
external disturbances and can also be used for locating discharges in or outside the
samples a and d . The observation unit differs from that for AC.

Calibration: the circuit must be calibrated to establish the relationship

between the magnitude of a discharge in the sample and the signal
received. This should always been done by connecting an electronic
discharge standard to the leads of the sample, usually before testing.

Other procedures for calibration are not recommended, see volume II

section 9.3.

Detection impedance

Any detection circuit contains a detection impedance where the

discharge impulses are formed. This impedance is followed by a step-
up transformer which provides an optimal signal-to-noise ratio. In
many discharge detectors these elements have been built into the
detector; the step-up transformer can be switched from a small
transformer ratio (e.g. 2) for small samples to a large ratio (e.g. 50) for
large capacitors [2,36].
In some commercially available detectors, the detection impedance
and the step-up transformer are combined in a separate unit. This
unit is called a quadripole and offers an input for the capacitive
current of the HV circuit and an output for the impulses which are
fed into the amplifier. Various quadripoles are available which are
adjusted to different ranges of sample capacitances.


The time constant of the amplifier corresponds to that of the

quadripole and the detection circuit. The bandwidth of actual
detectors is usually in the order of a few hundreds of kHz, sometimes
a narrow band of 30 kHz can be chosen as well.
AC detectors have usually a linear amplifier, in the case of DC it is
advisable to have a logarithmic amplifier because of the large
dynamic range of the signals,
Up to this stage no basic differences exist between AC and DC
detectors. In the following, however, special techniques for DC
detection come into the picture. The first one is pulse discrimination: all
discharges generated in a sample at DC are of one polarity, see the
black arrow in figure 5.8, but disturbing impulses from the DC
source, the coupling capacitor or the guard electrodes have the
opposite polarity, see the white arrows in the diagram. It may thus be
beneficial to record the impulses of one polarity only. Also, by fast
switching over from one polarity to the other, it can be determined

whieh discharges originate from the sample and whieh from outside.
This suppression of disturbance, however, is made at the expense of a
loss of data. During the short period in whieh an undesired impu1se
is rejected, a desired impu1se cannot be recorded. If the frequency of
the disturbing impu1ses is fo and the maximal pu1se frequency of the
detector is fmax the Ioss of information is

JsL .100%
fmax '

if it is assumed that the impu1ses are randomly distributed.

This system works well at 10w disturbing frequencies; if for instanee
100 disturbing pulses per second are formed and the solution of the
detection circuit is 20 kHz, the loss of information is % only. H,
however, the frequency of the disturbing impulses is of the same
order of magnitude as the resolution of the system almost all
information is lost. In that case the above-mentioned balanced circuit
have been used.


Basic differences between DC and AC arise when obseroing the

discharge impulses. There is no periodicity in the supply voltage and
synchronie recording with 50(60) Hz is not feasible. Other techniques
for recording have been developed.
There are, in fact, only two variables that can be recorded, see figure
5.10. These are the height q of each discharge and the delay time M
between discharges. The measured values of these two variables can
be stored in a memory over a period of time and the results can be
used for further processing, possibly in a statistical manner. But
before entering into this discussion a survey is given of the
techniques that have been developed for recording AC discharges.


I. t t t t t

Fig. 5.10. Two variables characterize a DC discharge: the magnitude q of each

individual discharge and the time lag Lil between two discharges. Both variables
show a large scatter in actual situations.

5.4 Recording with AC voltage

When testing with AC voltage, discharge patterns are generated that
recur with a 50(60) Hz frequency, see figure 5.11 (a). These are
usually displayed on a time base with an elliptical shape as shown in
figure 5.11 (b). The position of the discharges with regard to the
voltage crests (+ and -) and the zero points (0) can be c1early
indicated in this way.

...-nIlhlr Fig. 5.11. (a) Repetitive AC discharge

o + o pattemand (b) display of this pattem on
a 50(60) Hz time base in the shape of an

How is this display used in practice?

First of all the inception voltage of discharges is determined by
recording the minimum voltage at which discharges show up on this
ellipse when raising the voltage.
After discharges have come into existence the discharge record is
used for two purposes:
Evaluation - how harmful are the discharges?

Classification - what type of discharge is apparent? This may

sometimes help as well to evaluate the harmfulness of the discharges.
These two aspects will be further discussed below.

Evaluation at AC voltage

Many specifieations for the testing of AC equipment set limits to the

maximal appearing discharge: qmax' The largest pulse that occurs at the
ellipse is measured and is expressed in pieo-coulombs. Specifying the
largest discharge is based on the following considerations:

1. The energy p which is dissipated in a discharge is equal to: p

~ 0.7 qVi,
Where q is the measured discharge magnitude and Vi is the
inception voltage of the sample, see volume 1I section 9.l.
For samples of the same voltage c1ass, the inception is
usually of the same level and the discharge magnitude is thus
directly proportional to the energtj that causes the degradation.
2. The volume of the cavity (or the discharge site in general)
increases with the discharge magnitude, as has also been
shown in volume lI, section 9.1. By measuring the maximal
magnitude the largest cavity present is measured.
3. Other units like q or iq are less suited because they may give
the same reading for one large and dange rous discharge as
for many small and unharmful discharges [36].

Classification of AC discharges

The shape of the discharge pattern at AC often gives an indication of

the origin of the discharge. Corona generates, for instance, a
characteristic unilateral discharge, see figure 5.12 (a) . A cavity
adjacent to a conductor creates an asymmetrie pattern, see illustration
(b). A cavity completely surrounded by a dielectric generates a
symmetrie pattern (c) and bad contacts or contact noise in the leads
have their own character (d) [2, 36]. This c1assification of discharge
origins aids in recognizing disturbances (for instanee corona at the

Fig. 5.12. Characteristic patterns of AC

a) - - - - - discharges.

b) --11111111

c) --11111' 11111'

d) .111 11111111 111.

0 + 0 0

HV leads of the test circuit) so that these can be brought under

It also helps to find causes of discharges in samples which have been
rejected at a discharge test. This recognition is valuable and has
further been developed by using digital techniques. One of the
successful procedures for doing this [6] is the following, see also
volume II section 9.2:

1. The 50(60) Hz time base is divided into a number of phase

windows, see figure 5.13. The number and the size of the
discharges in any phase window are determined.

0 0 0

Fig. 5.13. Statistica! ana!ysis of AC discharges begins with storing the number n and
the size q of all discharges in any phase-window ffJ.

2. Statistical distributions are made from these observations, an

example is given in figure 5.14. Several of these distributions
can be made for one defect and it has been found that every
defect generates a number of distributions which are unique
for a certain defect [2, 6, 40].

Fig. 5.14. AC statistical distributions of the average discharge magnitudeij, the max.
magnitude or the number of discharge n as a function of the phase angle lfJ. These
distributions, both in the positive and in the negative half of the sine wave, are
characteristic for the type of discharge in question.

3. These distributions are stored in a data bank in a way similar

to the way in which fingerprints are stored by the police.
Characteristic sourees of discharges can be memorized in
this way.
4. If a discharge is detected during a discharge test, its
characteristics can be compared with the fingerprints in the
data base. In actual cases the souree of the defect may be
found in this way.

The attribution to a possible souree is often presented in a diagram as

shown in figure 5.15. In that diagram the possible origin of the
discharge is given as a percentage; this percentage reflects the
probability that the discharge originates from the indicated source,
such as a cavity, a surface discharge, a tree, corona, etc.

The attribution may be sharp, the first stave in the diagram is then
almost 100% and the others are small or neglectible, as shown in
figure 5.15. In other cases the attribution may be uncertain, the first
stave is then far smaller than 100% and other possible sourees are
indicated with rather high percentages.

attribution Fig. 5.15. Classification of an AC

o 20 40 60 80 100% d ischarge. The distributions of an
unknown discharge. see figure 5.13, are
/---'- ===-::;.=....J cavity compared and a statement is made as to
the origin of the discharge. The most
probable origin appears here to be a
cavity in the dielectric.

5.5 Recording at De voltage

AC-based recording techniques cannot be used at DC as there are no
discharge patterns which recur at a 50 or 60 Hz time base. Moreover,
the discharges occur very infrequently so that oscillographic
observation does not make sense either. As said before, the discharge
magnitude and the intervals between discharges are the only
variables that can be observed. A currently used method to display
the results is to count the number of discharges of several classes of
magnitudes for a period of time, e.g. for some minutes or half an
hour. The results are then displayed in a graph where the frequency n
is presented as a function of the discharge magnitude q (or rather the
c1ass of discharge magnitudes between qn and qn+, see figure 5.16.
This way of dealing with discharge results reveals another difference
between DC and AC: results of DC detection are presented off-line
where AC detection takes place on-line. The procedure for measuring
DC discharges is thus far slower than that for AC.
In the case of AC, it is common practice to make changes in the test
voltage and to interpret the changes in the oscillographic picture.
These observations mayalso be made after changes in the detection
circuit. The manipulations have a direct effect on the observations so
that conc1usions as to origin of discharges, disturbances, side-effects,
etc. can be drawn.




Fig. 5.16. A currently used display of De discharge: the number of discharges (for a
given period of time) is shown as a function if the discharge magnitude in pc. The x-
axis is devided in a number of classes with a discharge magnitude from qn to qn+lo

The off-line measurements with DC voltage take far more time so

that the direct relationship between test results and variations in
voltage or circuit is lost.

The techniques for recording DC discharges follow similar lines as

those of AC discharges. Two lines of development can be distin-
Eualuaiion - Simple procedures are used for specifying go/no-go
Classification - Advanced techniques are employed for finding the
origin of the measured discharge.
Both items are discussed below.

5.6 Evaluation of De discharges

There are hardly any specifications for testing non-energy equipment
in existence, but there are some specifications for the testing of
components for HVDC transmission, such as power transformers or
submarine cables. According to these specifications, the object is
measured for a period of time, in the order of one hour, and a limit is set

for a maximum discharge magnitude, e.g. 1000 pc, with a specified

repetition rate, e.g, one discharge per minute or more.
Is this a sensible requirement? To answer this question we will study
the behaviour of some often-occurring discharges:

cavity dis charges _

surface discharges in air
surface discharges in oil
corona in air

Cavities - The discharge magnitude to be expected for cavities can be

ca1culated if it is assumed that:

1. The complete surface A of the cavity takes part in the

2. The cavity contains air of one atmosphere, 50 that the
ignition voltage of the cavity can be derived from the Pasche
curve for air,
3. The residual voltage of the discharge is almost zero 50 that
The discharge magnitude is then

q = b~V

and with the aid of figure 5.17 the ca1culated value qc is

qc = CO erA d .~ V.

Converting this expression into current units, A in mm2 , d in

mm and ~V in kV, yields

Fig. 5.17. Cavity in a dielectric;

calculating the expected discharge
IN magnitude.
qc=9e,.AA ~V inpC.

Some examples:
A cavity of 1 x 1 mm by 60 11 height (in a polyethylene
insulation of 10 mm thickness) is expected to generate
discharges of 1 pc.
A cavity of 3.5 x 3.5 mm by 1 mm height (in the same
dielectric) has an expected discharge magnitude of 100 pc.
Do these expectations come true if actual samples are measured?
From a number of observations [3, 35, 38] the following could be

1. It appears that up to 1 mm cavity diameter (at a height of 0.2 to

1 mm) the V measured discharge magnitude is almastequal to the
calculated one: qc' Depending on the insulation material and
field strength, this was observed at a repetition rate of 1 to
600 discharges per minute.
2. With diameters over 1 mm the discharge magnitude increases but
little. Part of the cavity surface discharges, apparently, and
different parts discharge one after the other. In cavities with
10 mm diameter only 5 to 10% of the calculated value qc was
observed. However, discharges of different parts incidently
coincide and very infrequently discharges of larger amplitude
are observed, up to 60% of the calculated value. Few of such
discharges per hour have been observed in cavities in
polyethylene at a field strength of 50 kV/mm.

The specification above, which mentions discharges of 1000 pC with

arepetition rate of 1 per minute, is thus sensitive for large cavities
only. Cavity diameters up to 8 to 10 mm are expected to generate the
specified discharge magnitude. In polymers this occurs, however,
with a low too repetition rate; in paper it occurs with a far higher
frequency caused by the higher conductivity of the paper.

Imperfectly impregnated paper - Air pockets as a result of poor

impregnation generate discharges larger than 1000 pC, 50 that they
are easily rejected by the above-mentioned specification.

Surface discharges in air - See figure 5.18. Surface discharges in air are
generally larger than those in cavities. They ignite at fairly low
voltages and increase fast with increasing voltage. Surface discharges
near a sharp electrode at 5 kV negative to earth amounted to 100 to
1000 pC, with a repetition rate of 100 discharges per minute. A
pasitive electrode generated stilllarger discharges: 1000 pC to 10 nC
with a similar repetition rate [9].

Fig. 5.18. Surface discharges in air.

Surface discharges in oil - Surface discharges in oil have been

measured for print-board under oil. A voltage of 25 to 35 kV DC was
applied over a distance of some millimetres. The discharge
magnitude amounted to a few pC with a repetition rate of hundreds
of discharges per minute, see also figure 7.11.
The above specification is thus weIl able to reject surface discharges
in air, but accepts discharges under oil of the type described here.

C ara n a - Corona around sharp protrusions in air is quite

characteristic. There is no basic difference between this corona and
corona at AC voltage: the physical phenomena in the discharge area
determine the discharge magnitude and the repetition rate, as
described in volume I, section 6.5. High repetition rates can be
expected. A negative needIe at 5 kV to earth generated discharges of
40 pC with arepetition rate of 60.000 min-I.
The above specification thus allows corona discharges in the tested
object. But if required, corona can be weIl discerned by increasing the
sensitivity to about 10 pc.

Conclusion - A simple specification like the one above has

discriminating power for many, but not all, defects. A more
discriminating specification will be proposed in chapter 8.

There is ample room for research on DC discharges in artificial

defects, such as

cavities of all shapes

cavities adjacent to the conductor or surrounded by the
virgin and aged cavities
surface discharges with or without electrode, both in oil and
in air
virgin surface discharges and after ageing
effect of various insulation materials

This research should be completed with studies of natural discharges

in transformers, rectifiers, cables, bushings, and so on. Further, the
relationship with voltage life must be established as well,

5.7 Classification of DC discharges

Recognizing DC discharges and c1assifying them as one of the known
discharge sourees in a database can be performed in two ways.
Discharges can sometime be recognized by using simple two-
dimensional diagrams . For a better discrimination of discharges more
elaborate methods based on statistical techniques are required. Both
approaches are described below.

Recognition from two-dimensional diagrams

Three ways of recognizing discharges by observing simple diagrams

are given below.
The first is the two-dimensional display of the number of discharges n
per unit of time versus the discharge magnitude q as shown in figure
5.16. This display may be used for checking whether the tested object
satisfies a specification on the number and magnitude of permissible
It also appears that the shape of this curve gives an indication as to
the origin of the discharges [9,37]. An internal discharge corresponds
to a sharp distribution as shown in figure 5.19 (a), a surface discharge

generates a curve with a far longer tail as shown in figure 5.19 (b) and
corona is characterized by a concentration around one magnitude
with little scatter, as shown in figure 5.19 (c).

500 x 1000
n1 n1 n110
3200 400 8
2400 300 6
1600 200 4
800 100 2
0 0
0 250 500 250 500 0 25 50 75
pC- pC- pC-
a) b) e)

Fig. 5.19. De discharge frequency = f(q) according to figure 5.16 for th ree different
types of discharges: (a) cavity discharges. (b) surface discharges in air, (c) corona.

Secondly, an useful picture can be obtained by recording the

magnitude of the discharges as a function of the test voltage. This
procedure has often been followed for AC discharges and with good
result. It is, however, more time consuming here: the test voltage is
raised in steps, after a step the initial rush of capacitive discharges
has to die out befere the observations can be made. In figure 5.20 [9]
the median of the discharge magnitude is shown as a function of the
test voltage. The flat curve of internal discharges can be weIl
distinguished from the growing curve of surface discharges; the latter
having more room for expansion on the dielectric surface.

1.2 ...- ....-

pC --.....,v /'

t 2 +--t----+--+------i
t 0.8

qmed 1 - t - - t - - - j - - t - - - j 0.4
o- t - - t - - - j - - t - - - j o
10 15 20 25 30 6 8 10 12 14
a) kV- b) kV-

Fig. 5.20. Median discharge magnitude as a function of the De test voltage: (a) cavity
discharges (b) surface discharges.

The third display which is typical of De discharges is the following.

The magnitude qsuc of a discharge that succeeds a discharge of chosen
magnitude q is determined. The average of these successive
discharges qsuc is determined for a given period of time. This
procedure is repeated for a number of chosen magnitudes and a
diagram qSllc =f(q) is made.
It appears that internal discharges generate an almost flat diagram,
see figure 5.21 (a), whereas surface discharges yield a deseending
curve, see figure 5.21 (b) [9]. The latter is explained as follows: after a
large discharge the surface is charged over a larger distance and less
charge can be deposed by the next one. In figure 5.21 (c) corona
discharges are shown which can clearly be recognized: the scatter in
magnitude is small and the succeeding discharges are independent of
their predecessors.

A special case

A special case is that of cavities which discharge in one step over

their full surface, see the Townsend discharges discussed in the
following chapter. Observation of these discharges has revealed an
unexpected but interesting difference between the time lag M befare
and that after a given discharge [9].

pC 10 Fig. 5.21. A typical display for De

t 8
discharges. The average magnitude of a
discharge suc following a discharge of

....'... ....
'. '.,
given magnitude q: (a) cavity discharges
(b) surface discharges (c) corona.
a) 0 -!--.---,----.---.---.--
o 5 10 15 20 25

nC 20

t 16
qsuc 12 . ,.. '
8 .. . z:
4 ..
b) 0 -!----,,----r----,-------,.---,-
o 5 10 15 20 25

pC 40

30 ......


c) 0 +----,----r----,-------,,---,-
o 10 20 30 40 50

M befare - Discharges in such cavities become larger if the ignition

voltage Vi is higher, see Vi in figure 5.22. Vi lies above the Paschen
ignition voltage V p. This increased ignition voltage is built up during
the waiting time for a starting electron, tLpre. If the waiting time is
longer the ignition voltage is higher. It follows from the figure that
then the voltage drop /i.V is larger and a larger discharge magnitude q
= b-: II can be expected.
The recovery time i; is, on the contrary, independent of the discharge
magnitude and is randomly distributed. The two time lags are added
to obtain the total time delay Mpre befare a discharge:

Vp - t -- - - :;;otL- - - --t- - - - --7l'C- 1'1 V

Vr - - - " " - - - - - - - - - + - - ' -


Fig. 5.22. Difference in time lag before (pre) and after (suc) of a given dischar ge q.

The average time delay ~Tpre is now recorded and shows an incre asing
relationship with increasing d ischarge magnitude q, as m ay be
expected. Figure 5.23 (a) shows the results of an actual tes t.

3:l 0.15 so 0.2
t 0.12
al 0.09
l:;:j 0.06
o o
o 16 32 48 64 80 o 16 32 48 64 80
a) q_pC b) q_pC

Fig. 5.23. Average time lag before (a) and after (b) a disc harge of q pico-coulombs in
an actual test on a fully discharging cavity.

Mafter - After a large d ischarge a low residual voltage Vi is left, see

the right-hand part of figure 5.22. The recovery time tRsuc to attain
the Paschen voltage V p is then longer, so that tRsuc grows here with
the discharge magnitude q. The waiting time tt. is independent of the
discharge and is randomly distributed. The two time lags are added
again and the total time delay .Msuc after a discharge is obtained:

~tsuc = tRsuc + tL

The average time delay Tsuc is recorded and shows also an increasing
relationship with increasing discharge magnitude q, but bya different
curve. Figure 5.23 (b) shows the results of an actual test. Such curves
are characteristic of this type of discharge. Characteristic shapes have
also been found for corona; but surface discharges, for instance,
generated an indistinct result.

Classification by statistical means

This classification is based on a way of recording DC discharges

which is analogous to the existing way of recording AC discharges.
AC - The AC discharge patterns were stored in the computer by
recording the magnitude q and the number of discharges n in each
phase windaw of <p as shown in figure 5.13. The complete information
of a particular discharge pattern was stored in this way. From that
moment on the procedure as described in section 5.4 (and volume IJ
pages 141 to 145) could be followed and a statement on the origin of
the discharge could be made.
DC - The DC discharge pattern is now recorded in a similar way by
storing the magnitude q and frequency n in each time windaw M, as
shown in figure 5.24: M has taken here the place of <po From this moment
on all statistical techniques which have been developed for AC can be
used for DC as well [9]. We take one step further by realizing that
there are differences in results if the time lag befare or after the
discharge is taken. See for instanee figure 5.23 where the distribution
of q changes if ~tpre or MSI/c is chosen.

I I I 111I11

Fig. 5.24. In analogy to the phase ang le rp with AC, the time lag M between DC
discharges can be chosen as a base for stat istics. The variation in time lag is large 50

that 6t is recor ded on a logarithmic scale .


By introducing this difference in time lag six different distributions

can be made:

q, qmax or n =f(M p re)


q,qmax or n = j(M suc)'

Moreover a histogram can be made:

q = f(n) .

By applying operators, such as skewness, kurtosis, number of peaks,

cross-correlation, etc., to these distributions, 27 values of the
operators can be calculated. These 27 values form the "fingerprint" of
the discharge. The fingerprints can then be stored in a database.
Unknown fingerprints can be compared with this file and be
recognized in the same way and by using the same technique as that
for AC discharges. Other techniques for the recognition of AC
discharges might be applied as wen [40].
Chapter 6
Partial discharges, physics

Partial discharges are characterized by the fact that only a part of the
dielectric breaks down. This partial breakdown usually takes place in
an air gap. The physical mechanism of the breakdown is not always
the same, it depends on the character of the air gap: a cavity in a
dielectric, adielectric surface, a protrusion in air, etc, but it also
depends of the ageing of the dielectric. Various discharge mechanisms
will be described here, but not before a description is given of the
measuring methods which are used for the study of these

6.1 Observation
The discharges in this study have been observed in three ways:

1. Electric detection with great resolution, down to 1 nano-

2. Optical detection with a sensitive video-camera, syn-
chronized with the electrical detector.
3. Microscopie inspeetion and electro-chemical analysis of the
discharge surface.

Figure 6.1 shows the set-up for the observation of discharges in

cavities [5]. This set-up can be used both for AC and De.

1. The discharge pulses are detected with the aid of a resistor in

the earth lead and are observed with a digital oscilloscope of
about 1.5 GHz bandwidth. It has been shown [36] that the
observed signal is directly proportional to the current, i.e.
the charge displacement in the cavity. The oscillogram shows
thus the movement of e1ectrons and ions in the cavity and is
therefore an important tooI for studying the physical
phenomena in the discharges. It shall further be noted that




Fig. 6.1. Observation of the physical phenomena in cavity discharges. A video camera
with an image intensifier is used to observe the luminous images of the discharges.
The shift of charge in the cavity is measured with an extremely fast digital
oscilloscope. After demolition of the sample the cavity-surface is examined with a
stereo microscope.

the area of the oscillogram is proportional to the classical

discharge magnitude q.
2. The top of the cavity is bordered by a transparent dielectric,
e.g . glass. On top of that a transparent electrode is applied,
such as a layer of water. A camera with an image intensifier
is placed over the electrode and records the effects of light in
the cavity. These video pictures are stored and can be
analysed with image processing software.
Slight modifications of this set-up are used to study surface
discharges on an interface between a fluid and asolid.
3. Erosion of the cavity surface is observed with a stereo
microscope. Also, chemical analyses are carried out and the
surface resistivity is measured.

When ageing samples with AC voltage three types of discharges have

been observed in this way [5]. These mechanisms will be described
first before the phenomena with DC voltage can be dealt with.

6.2 Streamer-like discharges

In a virgin cavity where no deterioration of the cavity surface has
taken place sireamer-like discharges have been found at AC. This is
explained in the following way. In the dielectric wall no initiating
electrons are present. The time lag to wait for an initiating electron as
a result of cosmie radiation is quite long. The 50 Hz voltage over the
cavity then rises fast over the ignition voltage and the field strength
in the gas is high at the moment when an initiating electron appears.
At a high field strength the ionisation coefficient is high and the
number of electrons N in the head of the avalanche is also high

N = Noe ad,
where No is the number of initiating electrons,
a is the ionisation coefficient, which increases fast with the
field strength
dis the length of the air gap,
see [1] section 5.2.

A situation occurs where the number of ions exceeds 108 , which is the
condition for a streamer discharge: the space charge of the ions in the
avalanche head then affects the field and the field strength near the
head increases considerably. The ionisation in that region becomes
intensive and more intensive photons are generated. These photons
can now ionize the gas atoms near the avalanche and new avalanches
are generated as shown in figure 6.2 (a). More and more new
avalanches are created and a narrow channel is formed as shown in
figure 6.2 (b). This mechanism is more quantitatively described in [1]
section 6.1. The streamer-like discharge in the virgin cavity has thus
the following characteristics [5]:

a. The optical observation of the discharge is sharp. A narrow

discharge channel runs from one cavity surface to the other
and deposits a surface charge in the shape of tiny Lichten-
berg figures. These Lichtenberg figures are larger if the
cavity is deeper.

Fig. 6.2. A first avalanche (a) ignites at

an overvoltage and a space charge of
more than 108 ions is developed in the
head of the avalanche. Secondary
avalanches are generated in the Jight ~\1~
field near the original one. This process
continues and a number of avalanches
bridge the air gap (b). A fast breakdown
and a narrow channel results.

a) b)

b. Electrical observation shows an oscillogram with a very

short front, see figure 6.3. The front has a duration of 1 to 3
nanoseconds for every millimetre depth of the cavity. This is
caused by the fast creation of the breakdown path where the
velocity of the electrons of 100 mm/us (over part of the gap)
plays an important rele.



r-- r- t--

o 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16

Fig. 6.3. The pulse of a streamer-like discharge has a short front and a fairly short tail.

C. The width of the pulse is also smalI, see figure 6.3. It is

mainly determined by the formation of the surface
discharges in the Lichtenberg figures. The pulse width is a

c 20
Ol 10

o 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8

cavity depth, m m -

Fig. 6.4. Pulse-width of a streamer-like discharge.

function of the cavity depth again, actual results are shown

in figure 6.4.
d. Only part of the surface is discharged so that other parts of
the surface discharge independently. This may occur so fast
that the separate pulses tend to overlap. Classic discharge
detection, with its far slower resolution, will record these
pulses as one large discharge. The charge content f i dl of the
oscillogram does thus not always agree with the c1assically
measured discharge magnitude q.

This situation with streamer discharges remains so for some time

under AC voltage: depending on field strength and environmental
characteristics this stage lasts 20 minutes to an hour. During this first
stage discharge by-products are formed which contain C, Hand 0
atoms. These by-products form organic acids which are deposited as
a thin conductive layer on the cavity surfaces. The surface resistivity
decreases appreciably, six decades or more [5].

6.3 Townsend-like discharges

From now on a transition to a second stage takes place, where a
completely different discharge phenomena is found when further
testing under AC conditions takes place. The conductive surface layer
contains free electrons and no time lag is required for waiting for
initiating electrons. The discharge starts just at the Paschen break-
down voltage and a Townsend-like breakdown takes place: the

initiating electron is accelerated and ionizes the gas atoms, see figure
6.5 (a). Positive ions remain and the new electrons collide again with
the gas atoms, ionize these atoms and form an avalanche as shown in
figure 6.5 (b). :rhe positive iOllS fa:!l back Oll tlte eonduclive layer-at
the cathode end generale new stafting c1ectrons, see figure 6.5 (c). By
this feed-back mechanism more and more avalanches are formed and
a complete breakdown of the cavity takes place, see also [1] sections
5.2 and 5.3.
- rn.. tlif. prlJc e ~s; ?ht.b ~c~ C<ec,-t.e...i- l?c..t g'et\e.qj c. Vle.,J s.1M-t~ .J u~
llt i4 Cc.lioo,4e L pLtclv icrlj ,1t .":\I\ . - - - --
I lfU"'" - ++ + -
- + + + -
+ ++ + + -
+ +
+ +

,t e-

a) b) c)

Fig. 6.5. Townsend discharge in a cavity. An initiating electron is present in the

conductive layer which is formed on the cavity surface by earlier discharges (a). An
avalanche is formed (b) and feed-back takes place (c), both by photons (ph) and ions
(+), A diffuse Townsend-like discharge results.

The characteristics of Townsend-like discharges [5] follow from this


a. As a consequence of the many secondary avalanches the

discharge is spread out over a broad surface. Large cavities
are discharged over the full surface as weIl.
Optical observation shows a diffuse discharge which covers
the entire cavity.
b. The breakdown process is far slower than with streamer-like
discharges. The oscillograms show long wave fron ts of many
tens of nan oseconds, see figur e 6.6.

4 /
~ V' --."

o 20 40 60 80
ns -

Fig. 6.6. The pulse of a Townsend-like discharge has a langer front and a far long tail
then in figure 6.2.

c. The pulse width is large. This is caused by the falling back of

the ions which move relatively slowly at about 1 mm Zus.
The pulse width is here also proportional to the cavity depth,
see figure 6.7.

t 800
.~ 400

o 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8

cavity depth (mm) _

Fig. 6.7. Pu lse-width of a Townsend-like d ischarge.

d. As the full surface discharges at one time, the area of the

oscillogram Ji dt agrees with the discharge magnitude q
measured by a conventional discharge detector.

This second stage persists for quite a while; for an AC field strength
of 5 kV / mm some hundred hours. At the end of this period the
concentration of by-products becomes so large that the conductive
layer tends to crystallize. Under AC conditions the next stage may

6.4 Pitting discharge

When crystals are formed a third stage sets in where another
discharge mechanism predominates. The crystals cause field concen-
trations at the edge of the crystals, see figure 6.8. Breakdown takes
place far earlier than in the preceding stages, but also in a smaller
space so that the discharges are far smaller as well. The deposited
charges spread fast over the conductive surface so that the field
restores rapidly and new small discharges occur; this repetition is not
unlike corona discharges in free air.

Fig. 6.8. Field concentrations near the edges of crystals formed after a prolonged
exposure to discharges.

In figure 6.9 such a cluster of crystals is shown. The great concen-

tration of discharges at a few edges and their large repetition rate are
detrimental to the insulation material. The dielectric near the crystals
is eroded and craters are formed in the surface; the black area in the
centre of figure 6.9 represents such a crater. Because of their
detrimental characteristic these discharges have been named by their
discoverer pitting discharges [5]. These craters lead in the course of
time to full breakdown; breakdown has been found, for instanee,
after 300 hours under an AC field strength of 15 kV /mm.

Fig. 6.9. Microscopie view of discharge induced crystals.

Pitting discharges (or corona-like discharges) show the following


a. Optically seen the discharges are very localized: a few

concentrated discharges occur at the edges of crystals. The
discharge sites are small compared to the cavity surface; the
light intensity, however, is great because of the high
repetition rate of the discharges.
b. The front of the pulse is short, as in the case of streamers, see
figure 6.10.

2 1\ I
" ........ M"I '1 ~ .IOA.
o v

o 10 20 30 40 50

Fig. 6.10. A typical oscillogram of pitting discharges: very short fronts and short tails
and a high repetition rate.

c. The pulse width is also small, some 10 to 15 ns.

d. The low discharge magnitude is also characteristic, in the
order of 0.2 pc.
e. The repetition rate is so high that sometimes two or more
pulses appear in one oscillogram of about 100 ns time base,
see also figure 6.10.
f An interesting situation occurs when performing classic
discharge detection. The ignition voltage Vj of the discharges
in the cavity is low, the voltage drop is also small. This is
shown in figure 6.11: in the left-hand diagram the ignition
voltage Vj and the extinction voltage V e are close, in the
right-hand diagram they are still closer. A discharge pattern
occurs that is not detected by the slow response of
conventional discharge detectors. This is the reason that this
stage is sometimes referred to as "pulseless discharge",

Fig. 6.11. Pitting discharges at AC. The repetition rate is the higher if the extinction
voltage V e is doser to the ignition voltage Vi' Such small and extremely frequent
probes remain unnoticed by a conventional discharge detector.

Different materials

The forrning of acid by-products and the appearance of these three

stages is quite independent of the insulation material. Most polymers
contain C and H atoms whereas 0 atoms occur in air, so that organic
acids such as HOOC-COOH can be formed as a by-product of the
discharges. But these acids have been found also in cavities in inert
materials, such as glass. Ambient air contains oxygen 0, carbon
dioxide C02 and moisture H20, so that all three constituents of the
acid are present; it only takes longer if they are absent in the

6.5 Ageing under De conditions

When stressing cavities with DC voltage two stages have been found
to date [9].

Virgin state

In virgin cavities both streamer-like or Townsend-like discharges

may be present. In a cavity in polyethylene stressed with a
comparatively low DC field strength 30 kV /mm Townsend-like
discharges were found. This was explained as follows. The voltage
over the cavity increases but slowly, compare figure 5.5. Even with
long waiting periods for an initiating electron the overvoltage over
the Paschen value will be smal!. The condition for a streamer
discharge is not fulfilled and a Townsend-like discharge with feed-
back to the cavity surface takes place.
If the field strength is increased, the occurrence of streamers increases
as weIl and at a high field strength such as 70 kV/mm only streamers
are found.

Aged cavity

Under DC stress a conductive layer is formed on the cavity surface.

This conductive layer promotes again the occurrence of Townsend-
like discharges. The transition takes place with far higher field
strengths than for AC. After 25 hours and 70 kV /mm DC stress a
mixture of Townsend and streamer discharges was observed, after 80
hours predominantly streamer dis charges took place.

A third stage?

A third stage has never been found when stressing with DC voltage
[9, 35]. The conductive layer remains liquid, no trace of crystallization
has been observed. Nevertheless, breakdown takes place af ter
prolonged stressing as will be shown in the next chapter. The relation
between DC discharges and DC breakdown is, on the grounds of
these observations, very uncertain. There remain three possible
reasons for breakdown in the presence of DC discharges:

1. Discharges are detrimental because they attack the dielectric,

albeit in another way than with AC.
2. Discharges are detrimental in an indirect way. They inject
space charges in the dielectric near the cavity. Local field
concentrations are generated which might lead to
3. Discharges are not detrimental, but they show a weak spot
in the dielectric which might break down for some other

For the time being, no choice can be made between these three
hypotheses, but they affirm that discharge detection is a meaningful
test for DC energized dielectrics.

6.6 Surface discharges

Surface discharges have been observed both for AC and DC

a. Optical observation shows streamers which form

Lichtenberg figures with branched channels for a positive
electrode and straight channels for a negative electrode, as
shown in figure 6.12.

Fig. 6.12. Surface discharges on a dielectric. Positive discharges are larger and are
more branched than discharges from a negative electrode.

b. The oscillograms are voltage dependent. [ust above the

inception voltage they have the same shape as streamers in a
cavity with a front time of about one nanosecond and a puise
with of some tens of nanoseconds, see figure 6.3.
The magnitude and the length of the pulse, however,
increases fast with_increasing test voltage. The pulse width is
determined by the velocity of the electrons, which amounts
to about 100 mm per us: if astreamer grows to a length of 1
to 10 cm the pulse width will grow to 100 ns to 1 us, see
figure 6.13, and can thus be well distinguished from internal

0.1 1011!S Fig. 6.13. Typical pulse of a surface

discharge. The tail grows fasl with
increasing voltage.

C. With classical detection, integration of several streamers at a

time takes place and the measured discharge magnitude q
will be Iarger than the charge content f i dt of the streamers.

Prolonged surface discharges are detrimental to the dielectric. A

conductive layer is formed and forces the discharges to spread out
over the surface. In contrast to cavity discharges crystal formation
has been observed here, indicating an irreversible ageing which will
lead to breakdown.

6.7 Corona
Corona occurs around sharp edges in a highly stressed electric field,
independent of whether this field is generated by AC or DC voltage.
There is a distinct difference between corona around negative or
positive electrodes.

Negative corona

De voltage of negative polarity is applied to a sharp metal point. If

the voltage is raised above the inception voltage corona discharges
start to appear. The impulses are regularly recurrent and constant in
size, see figure 6.14 (a). Between this inception voltage and a voltage
which is 1.5 to 2 times higher, the discharge magnitude remains the
same, but the repetition frequency increases fast with increasing
voltage. These regularly recurring pulses are called Trichel-pulses after
Trichel [39] who studied point-to-plane corona and explained the
regular character of these discharges in the following way.

Fig. 6.14. Regularly recurrent pulses of

corona in air (a). lrregular and ins tabIe
pulses of corona in oil (b).
~ V'



A Townsend discharge takes place near the cathode, photons are

created which reach the cathode and generale new electrons by
photo-ionization in the metal surface. A quick lateral extension of the
ionized region takes place so that the surface of the point is covered
by the discharge.
At a greater distance from the cathode, the electrons slow down and
attach themselves to the electro-negative oxygen molecules in the air.
A negative space charge is built up and shields the point from the
electrical field. The discharge is then extinguished for a period of 50
to 200 us. During that time the negative space charge moves away,
the field strength rises again and the cyde is repeated. The effect of
the negative space charge is important in this process. In a gas
6.7. CORONA 131

without electro-negative molecules no regularly recurrent discharges

appear as can be observed when air is replaced by nitrogen. Adding a
few percent of air (electro-negative 02 molecules) is sufficient to
restore the regular discharges.
The whole process takes place within a di stance of 0.1 mm from the
point and in a period of about 10-8 seconds.

a. Optical observation shows a complicated structure, similar

to that in gas-discharge tubes. In the strong field just outside
the point a luminous spot appears, the negative glow, figure
6.15. In the region of the negative space charge a faint glow
appears, which is called the positive column. Between the
two luminous parts the dark space of Faraday is found
which corresponds to a region of low field strength where no
ionization takes place.

cathode Fig. 6.15. Optica) observation of negative

-0.1 mm corona in air.

dark space

b. The front of the pulse is determined by the velocity of the

ions, in this region thus about 1 ns.
c. The pulse width depends on the radius of the point as
shown in figure 6.16.
d. Classical detectors measure the charge content f i dt
correctly, the repetition frequency of the pulse is so low that
no integration takes place.

rad i u s 500 Il
radius 200 Il
radius 10 Il

Fig. 6.16. PuIses of negative corona in air. The pulse-width increases with increasing
radius of the needle-shaped conductor.

Positive corona

The inception voltage of positive corona is higher than that of

negative corona. No cathode is present in the region of high field
strength and streamers are formed in the gas near the point. These
streamers leave positive ions behind, the point is shielded by this
space charge and the discharge is extinguished. The space charge
drifts away, a new discharge is generated and a recurrent discharge
pattem is established. This pattem, however, is not as regular as with
negative corona and with higher voltages long streamers are formed,
which are no longer extinguished.

a. Optical observation reveals streamers which may reach quite

substantial dimensions, when the voltage is raised.
b. The front of positive corona amounts to some tens of
c. The tail of the pulse shows a long table before the decline
sets in. The pulse width is distinctively larger than in figure
6.16 with negative corona.
d. Classical detection gives a correct representation of the
charge content Ji dt.
6.7. CORONA 133

Corona discharges in air are not detrimental to adielectric. They may

thus be accepted, unless they mask the detection of other, more
dangerous discharges.

Corona in SF6 gas is not acceptable beeause the by-products of

breakdown in SF6 are poisonous and aggressive to electrodes and

Corona in oil mayalso occur around sharp edges. The high field
strength in the vicinity eauses first a partial breakdown of the oil. An
unstable form of corona then occurs in the gaseous by-products of the
breakdown, see figure 6.14 (b). Although such corona is not
detrimental to the dielectric it might pollute the oil and impair the
dielectric strength in the long run.
Chapter 7
Breakdown and voltage life

7.1 Breakdown of solids

Similarly to AC and other voltage shapes, at least four mechanisms
will be considered in conneetion with breakdown under DC

intrinsic breakdown
thermal breakdown
discharge breakdown

In addition attention will be paid to the combination of dielectrics

leading to:

breakdown in interfaces.

Intrinsic breakdown

Intrinsic breakdown occurs (for DC as for other voltage shapes) if all

other causes of breakdown are eliminated:

a. The dielectric is completely free of defects: no inc1usions, no

cavities, no moisture, no chemical impurities, etc.
b. The electrodes are perfect: no protrusions, no scratches,
adhering well to the dielectric, with a perfect profile such as
Rogowski, etc.
c. Testing small volumes to keep the probability for defects
small: in the order of a few mm'.
d. Short test periods, to prevent thermal breakdown, formation
of space charge, etc.


In order to illustrate the extreme conditions under which intrinsic

breakdown takes place an example is given [44] of intrinsic
breakdown in glass, see figure 7.1. In the wall of a glass tube a sp here
is blown where the wall decreases gradually to a thickness of 10 to
10011. The surface of the glass is etched with chromium acid in order
to re move any trace of impurity or grease. The electrodes are
composed of evaporated silver. The volume that is tested on high
field strengths is limited to a few mm'.

Fig. 7.1. Test sample for determining the

intrinsic breakdown strength of glass.

Results of breakdown tests reveal the risk of thermal breakdown.

Thermal breakdown is prevented if the combination of test period to
and test temperature T is kept below a certain value, as shown in
figure 7.2. Below these va lues the intrinsic breakdown strength is
reached as shown in the upper curve in figure 7.2.
The intrinsic breakdown itself is independent of temperature T, test
duration t o or insulation thickness d. The intrinsic breakdown
strength is characteristic for the insulation material and differs for all
materials. Different types of glass attain a value around 1 MV /mm,
polyethylene breaks down at 600 to 700 kV/mm.



r--::::: r-,
<, -
~ '-.. <,
....::::: - -
<, -

10-4 sec

I": ~ ' - <,


f'-..... r-- 1 sec
30 sec --
-60 -40 -20 0 20 40 60 80 100

Fig. 7.2. Breakdown strength of glasses a function of temperatures, measured for test
periods ta between 10-4 sec and 30 sec. Below a certain combination of test period
and temperature thermal breakdown is prevented and the intrinsic breakdown
strength of glass is reached.

What is the underlying mechanism? A classical explanation is based

on the free e1ectrons in the dielectric. These electrons obtain a high
velocity in the prevailing electrical field E and dissipate a flow of
energy PI,

PI =f(E).
The electrons collide with the crystallattice and transmit an energy
flow P2 to the lattice:

P2 = F(T,a),
where T is the absolute temperature and a is a measure for the
energy traps in the dielectric.
As long as PI < P2 the system is in balance and nothing happens
except some heating of the dielectric. If PI> P2 the energy dissipation
is unlimited, the high-energy electrons destroy the crystallattice and
intrinsic breakdown takes place.

Another explanation is given by the electra-mechanical forces in the

electric field. The electro static compression amounts to P = C{)r E2 .
The dielectric breaks down if this force exceeds the mechanica1
strength of the dielectric. This mechanism mayalso play a part in a
lower field strength when a dielectric has been deteriorated by
pralonged high electric fields so that its mechanical strength has been
The high electric field strengths which go with intrinsic breakdown
are seldom reached in actual cases. Long before this level is reached
breakdown takes place in defects: inclusions, cavities, impurities,
rough electrodes or interfaces between bodies. Defects cannot be
prevented; the larger ones can be eliminated but the smaller ones, say
from 1 Jl downwards, are inevitable.
Consequently, the intrinsic electrical strength of a material does not
playa part, or, as it could facetiously be said: " m aterials do not exist,
only defects do".
However, the notion of intrinsic breakdown strength is not
completely without meaning. It represents, anyhow, a limit that
never can be exceeded. And in some actual situations defects may
cause field concentrations, or space charges in DC fields may cause
fields, which approximate the intrinsic strength and cause

Thermal breakdown

The applied voltage and the leakage current represent a loss that is
converted into a heat flow in the dielectric. If the applied voltage is
increased the heat generation increases strongly, and if this heat flow
exceeds the flow that can be removed by thermal conduction an
instabie situation occurs. The temperature of the dielectric increases
beyond contral and the dielectric melts or burns so that breakdown
The condition for thermal breakdown can be deduced for DC in a
similar way as that done for AC in volume I section 9.3.
A small cross-section of 1 x 1 mm is considered as shown in figure
7.3. In this cross-section a loss Wl is generated:

where U is the applied voltage,

d is the thickness of the dielectric
pis the specific resistivity of the dielectric.

u Fig. 7.3. Estimating the thermal break-

down voltage by calculating the heat
electrode flow in a small cross-section of 1 x 1 mm
in De stressed dielectric.

f d

The removal of the heat flow W2 is calculated by assuming that all

heat is generated in the centre of the cross-section:

where Rth is the thermal resistance of the cross-section

T is the temperature
(}th is the thermal conductivity of the dielectric
d is again the thickness of the dielectric.
The system is just in balance if Wl = W2; if Wl is larger than that the
system becomes instable, the temperature blows up and a thermal
breakdown takes place. The condition for thermal breakdown at De
is thus:

U2 _ 4 T(}th
dp - d


U2 = 4.T.p.(Jth'

The breakdown voltage is independent of the insulation thickness d, a

characteristic which is typical for thermal breakdown in general. The
temperature T has a special meaning here; it represents the
temperature where the dielectric either melts (plastics), burns
(paper), or shows an excessive increase in conductivity (polymers,

If the characteristic values for impregnated paper, polyethylene or

most other materials are entered in this expression a thermal
breakdown voltage of hundreds of megavolts DC is obtained. In
other words, thermal breakdown does not occur under normal DC

It can be estimated, however, which low values of insulation

resistivity are required to provoke thermal breakdown at currently
used DC voltages. It then follows from the expression above that

Pbreakdown = 4 T (Jth .

If we enter here U = 100 kV, T = 400 "K and (Jth = 3.5 for polyethylene
or 5.5 W /(Km) for paper, the specific resistivity required for DC
breakdown becomes about 10 6 nm. This value is characteristic for
semi-conductors, not for insulating materials.
Only with extremely high field strengths, approaching the intrinsic
breakdown strength, such low values for resistivity can be expected:
the emission current increases exponentially with field strengths over
250 kV /mm, as has been shown before in figure 4.13.


Electrical treeing occurs in locations where defects are present in the

insulation. Some of these defects are shown in figure 7.4: (a)
conductive partic1es (b) protrusions or corrugations on the electrode

(c) sharp gaps where discharges take place (d) non-conductive

particles, e.g . glass, which do not adhere to the dielectric. In all these
cases a heavy field concentration occurs near the edge of the defect.
Such high local fields are a pre-condition for the creation of trees.
Tests have shown that variation (d) is one of the more detrimental
types of inclusion: contrary to what might be expected, non-
conductive inclusions represent a serious danger for the dielectric.

\V \V \V
/ /
a) b) c) d)

Fig 7.4. Different causes of treeing in a dielectric (a) sharp inclusion (b) protrusion on
the electrode (c) sharp gap (d) non-conductive particIe.

The formation of electrical trees in polymers is usually explained as

follows. Injection of high-energetic electrons into the dielectric takes
place in the locations where high field concentrations are present,
from about 100 kV/mm onwards. These electrons disrupt the bonds
in the polymer chains and the material degrades. After a while
breakdown takes place in the nearest surroundings of the defect, e.g.
over a distance of about 10 11. Discharges take place, the channel is
slightly excavated and the high electric field is transferred to the top
of the channel. Degradation by high-energy electrons now takes place
near the top of the channel, a local breakdown takes place again and
the procedure is repeated. The forming of breakdown channels has a
stochastic character so that the breakdown may each time occur in
another direction. Breakdown occurs sometimes in two different
directions at the same time so that branching of the tree takes place.
A characteristic tree-shaped path is formed in this way, similar to the
shape of lightning in free air, see figure 7.5.

Fig. 7.5. Treeing on the top of a


The initiation of a tree in AC conditions is relatively easy: the charge

displacements near the top of the defect are capacitively supplied by
the dielectric in series with the defect. The deterioration of the
material is intensive and an initiating breakdown takes place at
relatively low voltages. After breakdown of the first channel, the
growth of the tree stops for a while until sufficient degradation has
taken place in the next area. This step-wise growth is illustrated is
figure 7.6, where the length 1of an AC tree is shown as a function of
the time t under stress.

Fig. 7.6. Velocity of treeing in a dielectric

AC trees grow in steps, DC trees initiate
at a far higher field strength but grow
faster after first initiation.

The initiation of a tree is far more difficult in DC circumstances. The
charge injection in the material occurs in one direction and is
supplied by the leakage current only. Moreover, homo charges may
be formed which shield the affected area. Tree initiation occurs thus
at far higher field strengths and/ or after far longer initiating periods.
But after the first channel has been formed the growth proceeds faster

as a higher driving field is available. The tree surges out with hardly
any retention for channel forming, as shown in figure 7.6.

The difference in growth also causes a difference in observation of

the breakdown path af ter breakdown has occurred. With AC, the
breakdown path is often accompanied by the branches of the tree that
preceded the breakdown. The shape and direction of these branches
may often help to locate the area where the breakdown originated.
The interpretation of such breakdown tracks has been discussed in
volume II section 6.9.
With DC breakdown the tree grows faster and less time is left for the
generation of an extensive tree. The breakdown path destroys most of
the tree and little or no evidence is left for finding the origin of the

Breakdown by discharges

As said before, it is questionable whether discharges in cavities are a

direct or an indirect cause of breakdown by DC voltage. Results of
breakdown tests have shown, anyhow, that cavities weaken the
dielectric. This deterioration can be related to three possible causes.

1. The discharging cavity carries hardly any voltage. Almost

the full DC voltage is carried by the rest of the dielectric so
that a higher average field strength occurs than in a
construction without cavity.
2. The charges which are deposited on the cavity surface form
a sharp layer, see figure 7.7.(a). A field concentration occurs
near the edge of this layer, which promotes breakdown in a
corner of the cavity. This is in accordance with the
observation that DC breakdown often takes place at the edge
of a cavity, in contrast to AC where breakdown usually
occurs in the central part.

+ + + +
~-:---:-:+ :-:--

a) b)

Fig. 7.7. Fields around a discharging cavity (a) field concentration at the edge of the
surface charge in the cavity (b) Space charges caused by the discharges in the cavity
reliweth edge and stress the adjunct dielectric.

3. If the applied DC voltage remains for a longer period, the

discharges in the cavity start to inject charges in the dielectric
and to buiId space charges around the cavity, see figure
7.7.(b). They release the field concentration at the edges and
improve the dielectric strength. This agrees with the
observation that the breakdown voltage increases after the
sample has been stressed for some hours on a slightly lower
voltage [35]. However, if this pre-stressing is continued for
many more hours, the space charge next to the cavity
increases and the dielectric between the cavity and the
electrode is stressed more and more, so that the breakdown
strength decreases after longer periods of pre-stress [35].

Similar processes take place in the insulation of HVDC (High Voltage

Direct Current) cabie. The insulation consists of paper layers
impregnated with viscous oil. Heat cycles in the dielectric are
generated by variations in the operating current. The insulation
expands at higher temperatures and stretches the metal sheath over
the insulation. When the temperature drops the metal sheath does
not shrink and cavities appear in the dielectric, especially in the butt
gaps between the paper layers as shown in figure 7.8. Formation of
these cavities may weaken the insulation, and in order to check the
service ability of the cablej overvoltage, tests have been specified
where the cable is stressed at 1.8 to 2 times normal voltage in the
presence of heat cycles. The most hazardous moment occurs when
the full operating current is switched off and the cable starts to cool

down. This may lead to breakdown. It has been found [46] that there
is a relationship between the discharge intensity and this breakdown.
In figure 7.9 the repetition rate for all discharges over 2000 pC is
shown as a function of the time during cooling down. In figure 7.9 (a)
the curve is shown during a test where no breakdown took place, but
in figure 7.9 (b) a curve is shown when breakdown occurred after
about 3.5 hours. The repetition rate hardly increases in the first
example, but increases ten to twentyfold in the example with
breakdown and it grows out of bounds just before the breakdown
occurs. As in the case of polymers, it cannot be concluded that
discharges are the cause of breakdown, their increase might weIl be
the result of a common cause, e.g. an increased conductivity caused
by the electron bombardment. But the fact remains that an increasing
discharge activity is the predecessor of breakdown.

Fig. 7.8. Butt gaps in paper-insulated

HVDC cables,

The repetition rate measured here is not high compared to the usual
repetition rates with 50 Hz AC. It would correspond there to l~O
discharge per half-cycle and would cause comparatively little
damage. However the DC field strength is here at least two times as
high as corresponding type tests with AC. This high E has an
appreciabIe effect on that of the expected lifetime L as follows from
the relationship L = cl En.

7.2 Breakdown of fluids

In contrast to solids, the DC breakdown in fluids does not differ
much from that of AC.
Liquid- Breakdown of oil and other liquids follows the same lines as
reported in volume I chapter 8. Impurities such as dust, fibres, metal
slivers or tiny air bubbles play a great role here. The particles are
attracted towards a curved electrode by electro-phorese. The partic1es

100 Fig. 7.9.(a) Discharges in HVDC cab les.

t 80
>2000 pC Slight increase of the repetition rate after
switchi ng off the curren t when more
40 cavities appear near the con ductor.

o 100
a) mi n _

t 100 >2000 pC
A Fig. 7.9.(b) Discharges in HVDC cable
after sw itching DH the current. A lar ger
80 fiv
e: r--
" 60 N \ incre ase in repetition ra te is a fore
warning to breakdown.
40 -current
20 I ),
-100 o 100 200
b) min_

also attract each other so that bridges of inferior quality are formed
where breakdown eventually takes place. With DC the sensitivity to
dust is stilllarger so that slightly lower breakdown voltages ma y be
expected. The de sign stress as shown in volume I remains abo ut the
same, the only difference being that here crest voltages shall be taken
instead of kilovolts r.m.s.

Gas - The mechani sms for DC breakdown are identical to those of

breakdown of gas in AC conditions, see chapters 5 and 6 in volume 1.
Again, the sensitivity to dust is greater than w ith AC an d must be
taken into account w hen long operation periods ar e expected. The
design stresses for air, compressed gas and SF6 in volume I can be
taken as a guide after converting them to crest values.
Vacuum - The phenomena in vacu um as presented in volume I
chapter 4 apply to AC as well as to De. Many vacuum constructions
are operated at high voltage DC, such as X-ray tubes, electron
microscopes or television tubes: most research on the breakdown of
vacuum has thus been performed with De. The indications given in

volume I section 4.5 are valid here as well, after allowing for the
difference in crest and r.m.s. voltage.

7.3. Breakdown along interfaces

Interfaces occur in locations where two different insulation materials
meet. An interface is in general weaker than each of the dielectric
components and demands for special attention when designing and
testing an insulation construction.
There are two types of interfaces to be considered:

1. Solid to fluid
2. Solid to solid

Solid-to-fluid interface

The surface of the solid is well covered by the fluid, resulting in a

reasonably perfect interface. This interface is nevertheless the
weakest part in the construction for the following reasons:

1. Surface charges may be formed by field emissions as

described in sections 3.3 and 3.4. The electric field near the
interface is seriously disturbed in this way, see figures 3.11
and 3.12. Building up these charges takes some hours so that
eventual breakdown may take place af ter many hours of
voltage application.
2. If the resistivity of the surface shows variations along the
interface, field distortions will arise as well and may impair
the dielectric strength. The same can be said of particles or
dust on the surface, affecting the electric field .
Other causes of field concentrations are scratches or indents
in the surface. Smooth and clean interfaces are thus a must
for high voltage De.
3. The former me ch anis m s relate to interfaces in a rea sonably
homogenous field. In inhomogeneous fields which may
occur near electrodes, another mechanism may take over: the
appearance of partial discharges. These discharges de-

teriorate the surface and initiate a breakdown. An example is

given below.

Printb oard

Although printboard is not designed to bear high voltages it is

sometimes used for that purpose. An example is shown in figure 7.10
where two conductors A and Bare separated by a slot C. The
construction is immersed in oil.

Fig. 7.10. Printboard in oil . High De voltages are applied between conductor A and

Flashover occurred on the surface when the printboard was tested

with elevated DC voltages [9]. Partial discharges were observed
before breakdown, the results are shown in figure 7.11 for two
different configuration of the conductors. The voltage was raised in
steps of 5 kV and observations were made after the polarization effect
of that step had expired. The average time lag M between discharges
over 2 pC was recorded. The first discharges occurred at 10 kV, for
higher voltages a slight decrease of the time lag was found. But when
approaching the breakdown voltage outbursts of fast recurring
discharges took place, which can be seen as single dots below the
curve of the average time lag !l.t. [ust before breakdown occurred the
outbursts increased and the time lags feIl down to 10-3 to 10-4 sec, or
in other words the repetition rate increased by times to 6.104 to 6.10 5
discharges per minute. It is thus worthwhile to test such solid-liquid
interfaces for small discharges and to adopt a safety limit of, for
instance, 104 discharges per minute.

Fig. 7.11. Surface discharges on print-

board, measured for two different
configuration of the conductors A and B.
The time-lag tlt between discharges over
2 nC is recorded as a function of the DC
test voltage. Outburst of discharges with
a high repetition rate, the dots in the
o 10 20 30 40
kV- diagram, are a fore warning to break-

o 10 20 30 40

In oil-impregnated power transformers there are also many locations

where interfaces between paper and oil are found. This explains the
tendency to set a limit to the repetition rate of the discharges: in the
earlier-mentioned specification a limit is set at 102 discharges per
minute (for magnitudes over 2 nC).

Solid-to-solid interface

Solid-to-solid interfaces form a problem because the surfaces can

never be made to be perfect. Either the shapes of the two bodies do
not fit perfectly, see figure 7.12 (a), or the surface roughness prevents
a complete coverage, see figure 7.12 (b). But also in the case where
one body is formed by casting one part upon the other, an interface is
left which may be loosened up by mechanical forces or by a slight
pollution of the surface.

i Fig. 7.12. Imperfect interface between

I I two solid dielectrics. (a) Imperfect fitting

~>iSF+'iijp~ (b) Imperfect surfaces. In both cases the

surfaces touch in the shaded areas only
a) I 1 and sufficient open space remain for
breakdown to take place.
cross-section side-view

Solid-to-solid interfaces are unreliable, as breakdown paths of

undefined length and width appear. The breakdown mechanism
foUows that of the ambient which might be air, gas, oil, vacuum, etc.,
but the breakdown strength is uncertain.
There are some ways to improve this situation:

a. by manufacturing smooth surfaces that fit well together and

by filling the interspace with silicon grease when assembling
the parts,
b. by manufacturing one of the two bodies of an e1astomeric
material and by applying mechanicaI pressure to the
construction so that the interspace is kept c1osed. Silicon
grease is used in this case as weIl.

An example of case (a) is given below, examples of case (b) can be

found in volume I sections 11.1 and 11.2.


An X-ray tube is connected to a high voltage DC generator by means

of a flexible cable C, and this cable is connected to the generator with
a plug as shown in figure 7.13. The plug P is made of quartz-filled
cast resin and fits into a house H which is also made of cast resin. The
interface is greased with some viscous grease and a mechanical force

is applied to the plug by bolting it down. The conical shape of the

plug solves some of the problems of matching the two surfaces,
applying silicon grease solves the rest, but the interface rema ins the
weakest part of the construction. Research on this type of interface
has, to the author's knowledge, never been undertaken, but it is
recommended to test such constructions with overvoltages combined
with discharge detection, and to set tight limits as has been done in
the former example of high De voltage on printboard.

Fig. 7.13. High voltage plug for connee-

ting an X-ray cable to a De generator. A
conical construction is chosen so that (1)
a good fit between Pand H can be
assured and (2) pressure can be applied
to the interface between Pand H.

Quasi homogeneous bodies

Many insulation materials are given their final shape by extrusion,

vu1canizing, casting or similar operations. These operations have in
common that separate layers of material are brought together before
they are fused. Imperfect fusion may lead to interfaces that are
weaker than the surrounding materials. Two examples are given

The first concerns rubber bodies which are manufactured by feeding

sheets of unvu1canized rubber into a mould. High pressure and high
temperature are applied to fuse the raw materials and to vu1canize it.
Failures in this vu1canizing process may leave faint interfaces

between the former sheets of rubber, where electrical treeing and

eventual breakdown may take place [45].

The second example concerns resin-bonded paper tubes. These tubes

are built up of sheets of paper which are wound on a mandril with
great tension. At the same time synthetic resin is applied to impreg-
nate the paper and to bond the layers of paper. After polymerisation
at high temperature, the papers are bonded to form a hard synthetic-
resinous tube. (A similar process is followed when manufacturing
resin-bonded condenser bushings.) Insufficient bonding [45] may
lead to interfaces where tiny discharges may take place and which
grow into longitudinal breakdown. The problem is that these micro
discharges are too small to be detected when testing the virgin
construction. Additional tests using overvoltages are required.

7.4 Voltage life of solids

It can generally be said that the breakdown strength of asolid
dielectric decreases with

a. longer voltage application

b. a thicker insulation
c. a higher temperature
d. the pressure of defects

The effect of the test duration (a) is here primarily investigated, the
other variables (b) to (d) follow thereafter. The knowledge of voltage
life in De applications is restricted; the available knowledge is
collected in the following sections and turns out to be sufficient to
draw some general conclusions.

Fig. 7.14. Pol yethylene discs for voltage life test s with De.

Flat models

Tests were carried out with flat polyethylene discs [42] as shown in
figure 7.14. Breakdown took place in the central part of 0.8 mm
thickness. The voltage life of the samples was determined as a
function of the field strength in this central part. The results are
shown in figure 7.15 and subsequent figures.

~ 300
...::: l::::""
r-- t--
- r--- ,....
r-- ~

0.1 0.5 1 5 10

Fig. 7.15. Results of DC voltage life tests with polyethylene discs. Curve A: electrodes
of conductive silicon grease. Curve B: sprayed-en electrodes of graphite.

t 500
~ 300
.... t--
200 f-
t-- I---
r-- -- r-- t---
- 20 C
70 C

0.1 0.5 1 5 10

Fig. 7.16. Results of DC voltage life tests for two different temperatures.

Voltage life - It turns out that the breakdown strength decreases with
time in a way similar to that which is known for AC. The slope of the
curve appears to be dependent on the material of the electrodes.
Curve A corresponds to an electrode that is made with conducting
silicon grease, curve B to an electrode made with a graphite spray.
This dependenee on electrode material is characteristic for DC and
can be attributed to differences in the formation of space charge. For
short test periods of one hour or less, the results of both electrode
types are equal, after longer periods the difference is evident: space
charge has had time to be generated.
Polyethylene - It was remarkable that no differences were found when
different types of polyethylene were used. Three brands were tested,
with different amounts of anti-oxidant and voltage stabilizers, all
three of the same density: 0.922 g/cm3 .
Volume - The field strengths obtained here are high, in the order of
one third of the intrinsic breakdown strength. This can be explained
by the small insulation thickness and the small volume under test.
Temperature - The effect of temperature is shown in figure 7.16, where
the life curve for 70C is shown. The breakdown va lues decrease to
60 to 70% of the ambient value. This decrease is more than with AC
where the breakdown strength for that temperature decreases to
about 95% of the original value.
Defects - The effect of foreign particles is shown in figure 7.17. Metal
particles of 100 ~ length were added to the polyethylene. This gave
two results. It was in the first place found that the life curve is
steeper, i.e. the breakdown values decrease appreciably for longer
test durations. If the voltage life Land field E are related in the usual

L = En '

the directional constant appears to be n = 20 for the unpolluted

dielectric and n = 8 to 9 for the dielectric with the metal defects.
In the second place a bimodal distribution is formed. The fullline in
figure 7.17 represents an average value, the dots in this graph
represent statistical abberations.

t 200

~ 150 I- ..... clean

I"- r--
.>I< 100
. defects
100 ~

0.1 0.5 1 5 10

Fig. 7.17. Effect of defects on the De life curve of polyethylene.

A similar test was made with a pollution of CuC12-crystals. The

majority of the breakdown took place at the normal breakdown level,
corresponding to the upper curve in figure 7.17. However, three of
the 20 breakdowns took place at an extremely low field strength. It
was believed that this occurred in places where the particles were
unevenly distributed over the dielectric and conglomerated.
The increased steepness of the life curve and the bimodal distribution
will prove to be of importance later on when procedures are
developed for testing DC constructions.

Cable samples

A number of tests have been made with samples of XLPE (cross-

linked polyethylene) cables [43]. The insulation thickness was 2.5 mm
and the length of the samples was about 10 m. The electrodes were
serni-conductive sereens applied in the way usual for high voltage
cables. The voltage life under DC conditions was determined. The
results are shown in figure 7.18, where the field strength is recorded
as if the field were capacitively divided in an AC cable


t 200 -- ---- ~

E 150
~ 100
<, <,
0.5 1 5 10

Fig. 7.18. Results of De voltage life test on XLPE cable samples. Polarity effect related
to the asymmetry of the sample.

Polarity effect d n contrast to the former tests where the field was
homogeneous,):lolarity effects may be expected here, caused by the
radial field. This agrees with the re su lts shown in figure 7.18 where
the breakdown values for negative conductor were lower than those
for positive conductor.
Life curve - The slope of the life curve is not uniform, but if the
average slope is taken a directional constant n = 9 is obtained.
Temperature - The effect of temp rature has been determined as well.
There were not so many results, but it appeared that the breakdown
strength of a negative cable was hardly affected, whereas for positive
conductor the breakdown strength tended to decrease, e.i. for 83 oe
with a 25%.
Volume - The life curve of the former tests with flat disks has been
entered in this figure for comparison purposes. The breakdown
values of the cable appear to be far lower than those of the discs. This
is explained by the larger insulation thickness and the larger volume
under test.

Dielectrics with cavities

In figure 7.19 the results are shown of voltage tests on samples of

polyethylene films, where a cavity is created by perforating one of
the sheets [35]. The cavity thickness is 0.3 mm in a sample of 3 mm
thickness. The character of the life curve differs significantly from the
former ones: the breakdown strength declines fast within the first

hour. After that the breakdown voltage remains constant: either the
sample breaks down within an hour or the sample does not break
down at all. Whether ageing would be absent for tests over 500 hours
rema ins uncertain.


t 200 -- ~
- --
.:L. 100 r-::::: "'-
0.1 0.5 1 5 10
hours _

Fig. 7.19. Results of De voltage life tests with artificial cavities in polyethylene.

This result is in contradiction with all other results, the au thor of [35],
however, reported that breakdowns outside the active area of the
cavity were omitted, which could have had a significant effect on the

A second example concerns cavities in filled epoxy resin [9]. These

cavities we re formed by casting, they were bounded by the electrode
on one side. The cavities were 0.5 mm high by a sample thickness of 2
mmo The results are shown in figure 7.20. In this case a declining life
line is found as before, the slope of the curve is in the range of n = 9
to 12.
In both graphs the life curve of the flat polyethylene discs have been
entered for comparison. It follows that the present breakdown values
are much lower than those of the discs. This can be explained by the
relatively large volume under test and the large size of the defect,
bridging 20 to 25% of the insulation thickness.

t 200 -- I- _
-- -
~ 100
50 - -
t-- I
r- -!..
0.1 0.5 1 5 10

Fig. 7.20. Results of De voltage life test with cavities in quartz filled epoxy resin.

Bimodal distribution

Some of the investigators made use of Weibull distributions [volume

II chapter 6]. First: in the tests with cable samples [43] a normal
Weibull distribution was found with a shape factor m = 1 to 2.5,
referring to a normal ageing of the dielectric. There was, however,
evidence of a bimodal distribution as some early breakdowns were
reported, 2 to 3 decades earlier than the main population. Second: the
tests with cavities in epoxy [9] showed definitely bimodal
distributions. The Weibull distribution consisted here of two curves,
see figure 7.21 (a): an early one with a shape parameter smaller than 1
and an actual one with a shape parameter over 1. This bimodal shape
finds its expression in a failure rate curve see [volume II section 6.7]
as shown in figure 7.21 (b), the number of failures per unit of line
being recorded as a function of the test period. At the beginning, the
number of failures decline as the uncontrolled manufacturing defects
are "bumt out". After that period, normal ageing proceeds on a low
level and a gradual increase of the failure rate sets in. Such bimodal
distributions are a good basis for routine tests on De equipment, as
manufacturing faults can be well distinguished from the normal
insulation by selecting the right test voltage and test period.

t 99 .9
98 .0

'ij 63 .0
i'L 50 .0
30 .0
20 .0
10. 1 1 2 3 4 5
10 10 10 10 10 10
a) t-

t 5

t1P 4

10. 1 1 2 3 4 5
10 10 10 10 10 10
b) 1-

Fig. 7.21. (a) Weibull curves of the Iife tesIs in figure 7.20. (b) Failure rate curve of the
bimodal distribution above.


Summing up these results leads to a picture which is also know for


With small defects and perfect electrodes the breakdown

strength of solids is high and the direction coefficient of the
life curve is high, n : : : 20.

In the presence of defects the breakdown level decreases and

the direction coefficient is reduced to about n "" 9.
The presence of defects creates also a bimodal distribution,
as shown in figure 7.21.

7.5 Voltage life of interfaces

No investigations on the voltage life of interfaces are known. There
are, however, a few indications which point to a considerable voltage
The first indication [45] is on the life of resin-bonded paper tubes as
described above. These tubes were used in a professional high
voltage construction and had extensively been type tested, for longer
times than specified. They failed nevertheless in actual use within 10
years. This corresponds to a steeper life curve than was assumed for
the type test (n "" 8) and although this experience refers to AC it is a
signal that interfaces ask for more demanding tests than solid
The second indication is the fact that the life curve gets steeper if
larger defects are present, as we have seen both for AC and De.
Interfaces can be seen as large defects in the direction of the field so
that a steep life curve can be expected.
IE interfaces form an important part of a DC construction, extra tests
in order to prevent longitudinal breakdown in operational circum-
stances might be recommended.
Chapter 8

8.1 Dielectric tests in general

Applying appropriate test procedures is essential for the quality of
the design and that of the manufacturing process of high voltage
equipment. The development of adequate test procedures for AC
equipment, has in the course of time, resulted in a high quality of AC
components. This quality manifests itself in a voltage life of 30 years
and more, and in a failure rate in the order of one per 1000 com-
ponent years or less.
The test procedures for DC equipment have been less well de-
veloped, although the practice in DC power equipment has already
led to a quality which is as good as that of the AC counterparts. For
non-energy equipment better DC specifications are needed. Without
adequate test requirements it is impossible todevelop reliable equipment.
A number of DC test methods are available, which will be further
discussed in this chapter:

1. Impulse tests
2. Stability tests
3. Discharge detection
4. Leakage tests
and as a possible addition
5. tg 8 tests with AC

On top of these tests a series of mechanicaI, thermal, material and

other tests are required to obtain a complete picture of the quality of
the object under test, but this chapter will be restricted to dielectric
tests only.

In all these cases a distinction must be made between type tests and
routine tests. Type tests are performed on a prototype. Such a test is


only repeated if the design of the construction has been modified.

The object of type testing is to ensure that well-manufactured items
of that particular design will have a low failure rate and a long
voltage life.
Routine tests are performed on each item and they attempt to
eliminate faulty items without impairing the quality and the voltage
life of the sound ones. These routine tests are sometimes extended by
making sample tests where a fixed percentage of the items are tested
in a different way.
The sample test is either performed in a destructive marmer, so that
the tested sample is lost for further use, or is performed in a more
time-consuming way which is too extensive to be applied to every
single item. An example of the second type of test is that performed
on components made in mass production, such as television tubes or
cable sets for television. Half a minute or less is available for testing
these parts, whereas a resistive field corresponding to operation takes
an hour or more to be formed. The only solution of this problem is to
select a fixed percentage of the production and to test these items
thoroughly for an adequate period of time.

8.2 Irnpulse tests

Components of power supply systems are often subjected to high
impulses which are generated by lightning, or subjected to surges
which are caused by switching procedures in the network. An
extensive array of techniques, procedures and test levels has been
developed over the course of time. Chapter 2 and section 4.3 of
volume TI deal with this subject.
Non-energy applications are different. The effect of lightning may
readily be ignored, but in many circuits switching surges occur which
definitely exceed the operating voltage. These overvoltages can be
suppressed by introducing damping resistors or by applying surge
arrestors. But they can better be resisted by designing an impulse-
proof insulation. Experience in power systems has shown that
designing for impulse overvoltages is advantageous to the insulating
capability of the construction and thus to the quality of the
equipment. As test specifications are absent here, it is recommended

to reproduce the switching surges in question and test the prototypes

of the equipment with a reasonable safety margin over the expected
impulse level in operation.

8.3 Stability tests

Life tests at elevated voltage are important means to check the ability
to withstand the operating voltage for a good many years. These tests
are often called stability tests and carried out both in type and routine

Type test

Stability tests are of the utmost importance in type tests. They are
performed in circumstances which represent operational circum-
stances, such as high temperatures, heat cycles, mechanical stresses,
etc. The test voltage is chosen to represent the full lifetime at
operational voltage. The relation of the test voltage to the operational
voltage is derived from the life curves of solids as reported in section
7.4. In order to keep the test on the safe side, a low directional
constant is chosen, n = 9, which corresponds to the worst case of a
poor dielectric with many defects. The slope of that curve is shown in
figure 8.1; an acceptable lifetime at operational voltage is chosen first
and an adequate test procedure is derived from that starting point.
Two examples are described below.

1. A submarine cable for HVOC transmission must have a life

of at least 30 years. If this life at 1 Ua is related to a stability
test at 2 Ua a test duration of 850 hours results, see curve 1 in
figure 8.1. An official requirement [30] specifies a test period
of 30 days with 2Ua, under operational circumstances such
as daily heat cycles, polarity reversals, bent cable, etc. The
officially required 30 days correspond to 720 hours, not far
from the 850 hours calculated above.

1"" <,
-, slabilitytests
~ <,
r- <, r-.
r-, r-,
1.5 <,
r-, -.
1 2
10 10 10 10 10
1day 1wk 1rnth 1 yr 10 yr 50 yr

Fig. 8.1. Stability tests based on the life expectancy L = clU n. Curve 1: subrnarine
cabie; curve 2: X-ray generator.

2. X-ray equipment is supposed to give reliable service for at

least 10 years. We assume a daily use of 4 hours for 5 days a
week. This corresponds to an uninterrupted service of 1
year. An adequate stability test can then be chosen to be 230
hours (about 10 days) with a test voltage of 1.5U o-
Alternatively a test of 1 month using a test voltage of 1.3Uo
can be chosen, see curve 2 in figure 8.1.

It is important that the situations in service are well represented. If

start-stop situations occur in actu al service the start-stop cycles must
be incorporated in the stability test. But the start-stop cycles must be
performed on the same time scale as in practice; these cycles cannot be
scaled down as has been done with the total duration of the test. It
shall in general, be ensured that the field distributions in the stages I
to VII of chapter 2 are well represented. Some equipment is used in
intermittent service, see for instanee the stress diagram for X-ray
equipment in figure 5.3. The cycles in this figure represent a square
AC voltage superposed on a DC voltage. We now make use of the
fact that the safe life curve for AC has the same slope as for DC: n::::: 9.

The voltage wave of figure 5.3 may consequently be enlarged in the

same way as would have been done for either DC or AC only. The
230 hours at 1.5 Ua calculated above for an X-ray generator can thus
be adopted for this square wave as well.

Routine test

The routine tests are based on the bimodal distribution as shown in

figure 7.21 (b). In analogy with AC tests the routine test can be kept 2
decades shorter than the type test. (See also figure 2.1 in volume 11
where a 2.5Uo routine test is indicated.) The loss of life is then 1%
only, whereas many of manufacturing defects may be eliminated in
this way.
If discontinuous service or polarity reversals occur in actual service,
the routine test should truly represent the field distributions in the
different stages. Careful planning is required to devise a routine test
where the voltage life is simulated in a short test period and the
actual field distributions are reproduced as well.

8.4 Discharge detection

Type tests

Discharge detection is not of primary importance in type tests: the

complete life cycle is simulated by a stability test and whether this
test succeeds with or without the presence of discharges is not
relevant. However, discharge detection gives additional information
on the behaviour of interfaces, and it is not well known whether a
successful stability test reflects a satisfactory operational life of the
interfaces. Official requirements may therefore specify discharge
detection in type tests as well.

It must first be ascertained how the test object is used in practice and
which of the operational models of figure 2.24 is valid, so that it can
be decided whether discharges will be measured in DC situations
only, or also in transient stages where AC fields are dominating.

Routine tests

Discharge detection plays an important role in routine tests, it is a

welcome device for elirninating manufacturing defects.
DC discharges - As we have seen before, there are hardly any rules for
the evaluation of DC discharges. The author has therefore developed
a specification for evaluating discharges in DC conditions [3], which
will be discussed here. This specification is based on the
characteristics of DC discharges and requires the observation of both
the magnitude and the repetition rate of the discharges. The
measuring results are entered in a diagram where the repetition rate n
is recorded for all discharges larger than a threshold value qth . Test
results from former sections are now entered in this diagram, see
figure 8.2, and a generaI rule for rejecting or accepting samples will
be derived from these data.

-\ 4 ~th 4
"'- <, I,
x: unsafe
2;" -,
" r-,
3 <, , -, 0: safe
"'- "'- 3 1"'-
S -,
"-,I"R"<, I"<, t-,

-, "" -, 9~ ~
-, I'\. -,

~ , 5i t-,
"'-.6 <, 7

10. 1 1 2 3 4 5 6
10 10 10 10 10 10 10
. -1 _

Fig. 8.2. Devising an acceptance test for partial discharges. In the diagram the
repetition rate n of all discharges larger than the threshoId value qth is indicated as a
function of qth. Experience with safe and unsafe situations are entered in the
diagram as points 1 to 9. A risky area Rand a safe area 5 are indicated. The area
below 5 is assumed to be safe for HVDC equipment and is characterized by the
requirement qn = 2 nC min-1.

First : :Fiae, the discharge measurements made on HVDC cable

during a cooling cycle, see figure 7.9, are entered. If no breakdown
has occurred, Iess than 5 discharges per minute larger than 2 nC were
observed. This is entered as a safe re sult, point (1) in figure 8.2. If
breakdown followed in the cooling cycle, more than 100 discharges
per minute which were larger than 2 nC were observed. This is
entered in the diagram as an unsafe limit, point (2).
Further, the results of surface discharges. figure 5.18, are recorded as
unsafe limits because of their unstable character, 100 min-I for 1 and
10 nC: see points (3) and (4).
The requirement for rectifier transformers, section 5.6 and [47], is
entered as a safe limit: less than 1 min- I for discharges over 2 nC: see
point (5) in the diagram.
There are also the results of discharge measurement on printboard.
see figure 7.11, where outbursts of small discharges. over 2 pC and
with a repetition rate between 5.10 5 and 5.10 6 min-I, preceded a
flashover over the printboard. This has been entered as points (6) and
(7) (.8) in the diagram.
Using the unsafe points, an area can be traeed out where there is a
risk of breakdown or flashover. This area is denoted with the letter R
for risk.
In the same way, an area can be found where the risk for
deterioration or breakdown is small, indicated by the letter S for
safety. Surprisingly, the conditions for safe operation with AC
voltage can also be situated in this area. The accepted value for most
AC components lies between 1 and 10 pC [36]; arepetition rate is not
defined, but this rate is at least 1 discharge per period which
corresponds to 3000 discharges per minute. This range is indicated by
points (8) and (9) in the diagram.
If now the lower curve of area S is taken as a safe limit a generaI rule
can be laid down, which expresses that:

no discharges are allowed which exceed a limit of2 nC min-I.

This is a general rule that might be applied to all kinds of DC

equipment. If more experience is gairied. a milder or a tougher
criterium might be chosen and different criteria could be devised for
different high voltage DC components.

AC discharges - The above specificatien applies to the pure DC

discharges of stage lIl, when transient and polarization phenomena
have died out. If the operation comprises many starts and stops, or if
polarity reversals take pl ace, discharge detection shall also been
performed in stages I, 1I or V. There might be reasons to choose
another criterium than the one above, but with a view on AC criteria
already being incorporated in the above specification the limit of 2 nC
min-1 could be chosen here as wen. After more experience has been
gained the criteria could be adjusted.

Quality check - The above diagram mayalso be used to check the

overall quality of components. In a test made on components for X-
ray equipment [9], a distinction was made between parts which had
visual manufacturing defects and those without visual. manufac-
turing defects. Although it was deemed quite sure that these defects
could not impair the voltage life of the equipment a criterium was set
for rejecting the faulty components. This is shown in figure 8.3 where
the results obtained on the testing of good components are separated
from those of faulty ones by curve C, where curve C represents the
go/no-go criterium.

t 1000 Fig. 8.3. The diagram of figure 8.2 as a

qu ality check. Parts with manufacturing
defects are rejected, well-manu factured
parts are accepted.


o +----.-----,----,---j
10 2
10. 1 10 10 1 10
. 1_

8.5 Leakage current

The measurement of leakage current might useful for testing DC
equipment. First of all, it had been shown before that an irregular
behaviour of leakage current may predict breakdown, see figure 4.17.
Further, the leakage current is characteristic of the polarisation
phenomena in dielectrics and can be used to recognize a dielectric. A
reasonab1e requirement is to record the 1eakage current of a proto-
type during the type test, and to specify that the 1eakage current
during the routine test does not deviate more than 20% from the type
test as shown in figure 8.4. The insu1ation of the tested component is
identified in this way.

Fig. 8.4. Leakage current i( of a prototype

measured as a function of time. The
prototype leakage current of newly manufactured
parts shall remain within the shaded


8.6 Dielectric loss

The same remarks can be made for the measurement of die1ectric
losses. These losses are measured with AC voltage and have no
re1ationship with the operation at DC voltage. In impregnated
dielectrics, ho wever, the increase of tg 8 as a function of voltage is a
good measure for determining the quality of the impregnation. The
average size of the cavities is shown by the loss increment, see figure
8.5. The loss curve can be measured on the prototype during the type
test; the measured losses for the routine test can then be required to
deviate 1ess than 10 or 20% from the prototype, as shown in figure
8.5. Any deviation in the type of paper, brand of oil, or in the way of
impregnating it is documented in this way.

Fig. 8.5. Loss measurement of a proto-

tg li prototype type as a function of the test voltage.
The losses mea sured with routine tests
shall stay within the shaded area.


8.7 Specifications
This chapter is concluded with the description of three different test
specifications. The knowledge and the techniques reported in this
book can be found back in these specifications. The requirements are
partly fictitious and partly based on existing rules. They should
therefore not be taken literally, but seen as examples of how such
specifications might be built up.

Converter transformer

The first example, see table 8.1, relates to aconverter transformer for
DC power transmission [47]. The specifications apply to the DC
windings only, the other windings are tested in the conventional way
as AC parts.

It is remarkable that no distinction is made between type tests and

routine tests. Elements of both tests are combined in the above test
and relate to every item to be supplied.

The stability test (2) is short in order not to expend the voltage life.
Although it is not required, it may be assumed that the manufacturer
has made exhaustive life tests on prototypes of these windings. The
stability test is performed at ambient temperature as the field
distribution over the oil and the solid parts is unfavourable in that

Table 8.1: Converter transformer routine test


10 negative pulses superposed on + Ua
2. STABILITY TEST for 1 hour
0.5 Ua AC superposed on + 1.5 U; DC at ambient
after 2 hours 1.1 Ua to -1.1 Ua for 0.5 hour
4. DISCHARGE DETECnON during tests 2 and 3
measured in the last 10 minutes
specification < 1 min-1 for ~ 2 nC
..add Q..Y\d L... 102 min"! for ~ 20 pC
2 u, AC at 100 Hz
7. Tg 0- TEST

The polarity reversal test (3) is realistic because of the many polarity
reversals that may take place in service. It is to be expected here as
wen that the manufacturer has tested his prototypes with large
numbers of polarity reversals, instead of one as has been specified
The discharge test [47] specifies a limit of 1 discharge per minute
larger than 2000 pC, but with a view to the generaI rule developed in
the preceding section, a limit of 2 nC min"! might be set for other
discharge levels as wen. As it is difficult to measure large
transformers with a sensitivity better than 20 pC, a limit of 102 min"!
for discharges of 20 pC and more is added to the specification.
The AC stability test (5) is identical to the "induced overvoltage test"
which is customary for AC power transformers.
The leakage current test (6) and the tg 0 test (7) do not figure in the
official specification. It would, however, be useful to introduce them.
There are several windings which figure in a converter bridge; the
leakage current of these windings can be specified to deviate not

more from each other then 10% or 20%. The tg 8 of the windings can
be specified in the same way as is customary for AC transformers.

Subrnarine cab Ie

Submarine cables for HVDC connections represent an enormous

investment, both in manufacturing costs and in expenditures for
laying the cabie. Also the costs of repair are extremely high and the
penalty for non-availability is substantial. It is therefore of the utmost
importance that the operation al life of the cable is long and the
reliability extremely high. It can be said that this has actually been
achieved: voltage lives well over 30 years and an availability of better
than 98.5% of the time have been realized. The existing test
specifications may therefore be assumed to be adequate. However,
the field strengths and the loads of these cables are gradually
increasing so that more sophisticated specifications will be necessary.
When testing HVDC cable a distinction is made between type tests
and routine tests. The type test is described in table 8.2.

Table 8.2: Submarine power cable type test


10 positive and 10 negative pulses, hot
10 positive and 10 negative pulses of 2 Uo superposed
on 1 Uo DC of opposite polarity
10 heat cycles of 24 hours with + 2 Uo DC
10 heat cycles of 24 hours with - 2 Uo DC
10 heat cycles of 24 hours combined with polarity
reversal from + 1.5 Uo to - 1.5 Uo
Measure during stability test at appropriate times.
Require < 1 min"! for 2: 2 nC
6. Tg 8-TEST

Tests (1), (2) and (3) in this table are in accordance with the CIGRE
specification [30]. Variations on this theme are used in relation to the
operational circumstances.
Discharges detection (4) is required in accordance with the higher
stresses imposed on modem cables. The specification is in accordance
with the phenomena described in section 7.1.
Leakage current (5) and -tg 8 (6) are measured here to serve as a
standard for the results of routine tests.

Table 8.3: Submarine power cable routine test

- 2 Ua during 1 hour
in last 10 minutes of test (1)
require s; 2 nC min-1
require within 10% of type test
4. tg 8 TEST *
require within 10% of type test

The routine tests are described in table 8.3 and require fewer
comments than the type test.
In real1y long submarine cables the tests marked with * cannot be
performed: test 2 because the sensitivity for discharges is insufficient
and tests 3 and 4 because the required power cannot be made
available. In such cases a sample test can be performed on a shorter
length of cable; the sample may be cut from the full-sized cable or be
manufactured in the same batch as the full-sized one.

X-ray generator

An X-ray generator introduces a completely different problem in

testing. The generator consists of various parts which are operated
with different voltage shapes. There is a high voltage transformer
which is usually energized with a high frequent square wave. This

high voltage wave is rectified so that the rectifier branches and

windings are stressed by a superposition of AC and DC voltage.
Thereafter a high voltage DC part is found.
There is only one way to test the complete unit and that is to operate it
at elevated voltage by way of a stability test.
Other tests, such as discharge detection and leakage current measure-
ment are different for each part of the unit. Such tests can be
performed on separate parts of the generator only.
The type test is described in table 8.4 and comprises voltage tests
only. The electronic circuit that energizes the generator must be
designed (or otherwise temporarily be replaced) to perform the
stability test(s) at 1.3 Uo or 1.5 Uo- It is advisable to perform the test at
both these levels as the shape of the life curve of so many different
components is not well known.
The start/ stop tests (2) answer also for the effect of transient
overvoltages if these occur when switching on. As these transients
may differ when the generator is loaded or not, tests at full load and
at no load are provided. Ten tests in succession are required to
represent ageing under transient conditions.
If the generator is intended for intermittent use, as in figure 5.3, test
(3) is added to represent the conditions which can be expected in
those circumstances.

The routine test is described in table 8.5. The stability test (1) is
somewhat more than 2 decades shorter than the type test, so that the
unit is not prematurely aged by the routine test. Discharge detection
can be performed on parts of the construction only. However, the
transformer (2) cannot be tested with its square wave as the fronts of
the wave are too steep and will interfere with the detection. The best
way is to perform the test is with a sinusoidal voltage of the same
frequency as the square wave.

It can be concluded from these examples that well-balanced test

requirements can be designed by using the information of the
preceding chapters. If a specification has to be made for other
products these examples can be used as a framework, where each of
the items can be va ried with the design and the application of the

product. But none of these items should, in the opinion of the author,
be left out.

Table 8.4: X-ray generator type test on complete unit

1.5 u, for 250 hours
and/or 1.3 u, for 1 month
induding thermalloading cycles
10 tests on 1.5 Ua at full load
10 tests on 1.5 Ua at no load
(if applicable)
1.5 u, for 250 hours
and/or 1.3 u, for 1 month
length of the test cycles equal to those in
op era tion
4. Specific tests representing operating
circumstances mav be added

Table 8.5: X-ray generator routine test

1. STABILITY TEST, complete unit

1.5 u, for 2 hours
2. DISCHARGE DETECnON, transformer
1.3 u, AC high-frequency, q < 10 pC
during last 10 min of (1)
require < 2 nC min-1
require less then 10% deviation from prototype

8.8 Survey
The knowledge collected in this book can be summarized in 15 pro-
positions. Some of these propositions have newly been discovered,
other have been collected from widely scattered sourees in literature.

1. The time constant t of the polarization process in stratified or

complex dielectric depends on the specific resistivity p of the
most conductive component only: t = 5.10-11 P sec.
2. The maximum surface charge K's that can be collected on an
interface depends on the permittivity e, of the least conductive
component only: K's = 10.r JlC/m2, for every kV and divided by
the thickness of this component.
3. The resistive field which is generated by a pure DC voltage is
identical to the capacitive field superposed on the charge induced
field of the collected surface charge.
4. The equipotentiallines of a resistive field concentrate mainly in
the high-ohmie elements of the construction.
5. The surface charge which is collected on a spacer is
proportional to the capacitively calculated field strength,
perpendicular to the surface.
6. The generation of space charge in a dielectric is irregular. A
commonly found distribution of charge is a hetero charge near
the electrodes. Small variations in the composition of electrode
or dielectric may result in completely different distributions.
7. A thermal gradient in a dielectric causes a distribution of space
charge. The local charge density is in that case proportional to
the local field strength.
8. Detection of DC discharges can be performed with the same
techniques as with AC. The display of the results, however, is
different. Both the discharge magnitude q and the repetition rate
nare recorded.
9. The repetition rate of DC discharges is directly proportional to
the measured leakage current.
10. DC discharges can either be classified by simple two-
dimensional diagrams or by sophisticated techniques formerly
8.8. SURVEY 177

developed for Ae. In the latter case the phase angle qJ is

replaced by the time lag M.
11. Evaluation of DC discharges can be performed by introducing
an acceptance level for the product of discharge magnitude and
repetition rate, for instanee 2 nC min-I.
12. Both streamer-like and Townsend-like discharges have been
observed with De. Streamers occur in virgin cavities at high
field strength. Townsend discharges occur, as with AC, after
13. Pitting discharges have not been observed with cavities at DC,
but discharges shorten nevertheless the voltage life of a DC
energized dielectric.
14. The life curve for DC voltage has similarcharacteristics as that for
a perfect dielectric has a high breakdown level and a high
directional constant, n 20,
an imperfect dielectric has lower breakdown levels, but also the
directional constant decreases, down to n :=:; 9, an imperfect
dielectric has a bimodal distribution, incidentallow results are
15. These characteristics make it possible to devise effective stability
tests, both for type and for routine testing. Combined with the
introduetion of the discharge acceptance level in proposition 11
sensible test specifications have been developed.


The knowledge of electrical fields in DC insulation can advan-

tageously be applied to the design of HVDC constructions; the
duration of the voltage application has an important effect on the
shape of the fields, as well as starts, stops, polarity reversals, etc. The
application of this knowledge may contribute to the quality of design.

The knowledge on the voltage life of DC insulation can with '

advantage be used to devise a stability test. Application of
this test provides a check on the quality of the design.

The knowledge of discharge detection with De voltage may

advantageously be used for routine testing HVDe
components. The discharge test offers a check on the quality of

The overall conclusion is that the application of these techniques may

significantly add to the quality assurance of HVDe equipment.
Appendix 1
Surface charges in the presence of a
thermal gradient

If the conductor of a cable or a bushing is heated a temperature

gradient is generated in the dielectric. The field distribution is affected
and space charges are generated in the dielectric. The space charge can
be calculated [3] starting from figure ALL Heat transmission takes
place from conductor C to sheath 5 and causes a temperature
gradient of g oe per mm insulation. The resistivity of the paper
insulation increases exponentially with the temperature, see also
figure 2.17:

---- 9 C/mm

---- s

Fig. AU.

where <JO is the conductivity for 0 oe and <J is a constant. Now V(/ <J)
*" 0, so that a space charge p will be generated which can be
ca1culated with the aid of the Maxwell-equation

VeE = p


and using the microscopie version of Ohms law

I = (JE.

From these two it follows that


From the continuity equation it follows that

'VI + (ft =0

and in static condition dp/dt = 0, so that

'VI = 0

J 'V -(J = p,


(J'V - 'V (J
(JE (?- = p.

The permittivity e remains constant sa that s = 0 and

rr .

This will be applied to the situation of figure Al.1, which can be

considered as a one-dimensional case. Then

1 der
P =-EE(j dx .

For d a/ dx we in troduce -

da dT
ar : dx .

We recognize in dT /dx the temperature gradientg so that

1 drr
P = -EEg a d T .

The conductivity is a = ao eaT (see above), so that


1 der
cr dT = a.
This applied to the above equation for p yields


In a thermally loaded paper insulation the space charge P is distributed

over the dielectric in proportion to the local field strength E. In the
example of figure A1.1 the highest field is found near the outer
electrode S, see figure 2.18 and the space charge is concentrated there.
The effect of this space charge on the electrical field at polarity
reversals has also been shown in figure 2.18.
Appendix 2
Induced charge in the pressure pulse

An electrostatic field is characterized by

tuE = 0,


f E dl =0,
see chapter 1 volume I.


I: 1 s
Fig. A2.1.


In the flat configuration of figure A2.1 this means that [23]:

(x - vr)El + (vr) E2 + (s - X)E3 = O.

The normal components in this flat sample are

e' 1<:
E3 =- E2 +-

where eis the dielectric constant of the medium

e' is the dielectric constant of the compressed medium
and 1<: = p.!!1X, where p is the space charge in a thin layer of
width ~x. It then follows that

e' - (s - x)
El =E . e(s - vr) + e(vr)' '1<:,

where (vr)' is the width of the compressed area.

With IC = p.!!1X and !!1X ~ 0 it follows that the surface charge 1<:1 at the
electrode, befare the pressure pulse reaches the layer of space charge L
in figure A2.1, is equal to

- (s - x)
1<:1 = Dl = eEl (s - vr)1 e + (vr)' I ~
-p dx .

In the same way the surface charge 1<:2 is derived after the pressure
pulse has passed layer L:

_ -(s-x-vr)/e+(vr)'/~ . dx
Ki - (s-vr)le+ (vr)'/~ p .

The difference in surface charge ~IC before and after the impact of the
pressure wave is

~ vrle - (vr)' I ~ d
1<:= si E>: vrl e + (vr)' I ~ p x.

As the width of the compressed area (v-r)' differs little from that of the
non-compressed area v-r (certainly if compared to the thickness 5 of
the sample) the expression becomes

A V-r/E-(v-r)'/~ d
u/= / p x.
5 E

Furthermore the thickness of the compressed layer (v-r)' is

(v'l)' = v-r(l + xp),

where X is the compressibility of the dielectric material and p is the

pressure. It then follows

A I/E-(l+xp)/E' A~
u/= / v-r p U.
5 E
Appendix 3
Repetition rate of De discharges with a
residual voltage

If the voltage over the defect does not drop to zero, but to a residual
voltage e as shown in figure A3.1, the recovery time i, becomes

V -u
t r = - 'l'ln - s - .
V s -e





Fig. A3.1.

The logarithm can be written as

In V s - e- u + e
V s -e '



or as

In (1 - ---) see figure A3.1
VS -et

and if it is remembered that

-In (1 - x)1 =x1 + ~

1 1
+ 3x2 + .. . -
X '

it follows that

t :::::r--
r Vs - e'


V r

where V s is assumed to be IJ..

The repetition rate then becomes

Two conclusions can be drawn:

1. The repetition rate is proportional to Vs and consequently

proportional to the De voltage over the sample, as we have
also seen in section 5.2.
2. The repetition rate increases with decreasing voltage drop IJ..

[1] F.H. Kreuger, "Industrial High Voltage" Part I, Fields,

dielectrics and constructions.

[2] F.H . Kreuger, "Industrial High Voltage" Part II, Co-ordinating,

measuring and testing.

References [1] and [2] are the first two volumes, the present book is
the third volurne in the series "Industrial High Voltage". Delft
University Press 1991, 1992, 1995.

[3] F.H. Kreuger, "Hoge Gelijkspanning". Series of lectures ET12-

36, Delft University 1994.

[4] Jing Tao, "Surface charge accumulation in SF6'" Thesis, Delft


[5] P.H.F. Morshuis, "Partial discharge mechanisms". Thesis Delft


[6] E. Gulski, Computer aided recognition of partial discharges

using statistical tools", Thesis, Delft 1991.

[7] M.A. Haus a.o., "Electromagnetic fields and energy". New

Yersey 1989.

[8] K'C, Wen a.o., "A calculation methad and some features of
transient fields in HVDC insulation". IEEE transactions on
power delivery, Vol. 8, no. 1 [anuary 1993.

[9] U. Fromm, "Partial discharges and breakdown testing at High

De Voltage". Thesis, Delft 1995.


[10] B. Wahlstrm, "Voltage tests on transformers for HVDC

transmission". Electra [CIGRE]. No. 46, p. 19.

[11] ANSOFT, "Maxwell field simulator". ANSOFT Co, Four

Station Sq. Pittsburg PA 15219.

[12] K Nakanishiev a.o., "Charge accumulation on spacer surface

in SF6 gas". Gaseous Dielectrics III, Pergamon Press, New York

[13] D.K Davies, "Examination of the properties of insulators by

surface charge measurement". J. Sci, Instr. Vol. 44, p. 521, 1967.

[14] KJ. Cornick, "Surface charge decay of gas/solid insulation

systems". Proc. 5th Int. Symp. H .V., 15.09, Braunschweig 1987.

[15] Fieldplots by P.H.F. Morshuis, Delft 1995.

[16] Y. Sekii "Electric characteristics of extruded insulated DC-

cables". CIGRE 21-01 Sept. 1982.

[17] M.S. Khalil e.o., "The effect of cable structure on space charge
formation" . IEEE Trans. on El. Ins., Vol. 23, no. 6 Dec. 1988.

[18] A. Cherifi e.a., "Space charge measurements, electrode effects

and breakdown". IEEE 0-7803-0129-3/92.

[19] T. Maeno, T. Takada, e.M. Cooke, "Measurement of spatial

charge distribution in thick dielectrics using the pulsed electro-
acoustic method". IEEE Trans. on El. Ins., Vol. 23, no. 3 [une

[20] Ying Li, M. Yasudo, T. Takada, "Pulsed electro-acoustic

method for measurement of charge accumulation in solid
dielectrics". IEEE Trans on Diel. and El. Ins., Vol. 1, no. 2, April

[21] R. Liu, T. Takada a.o., "Pulsed electro-acoustic method for

measurement of space charge under both DC and AC electric
fields". J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys 26, 1993

[22] C. Alquie, G. Dreyfus, J. Lewiner, "Stress wave probing of

electric field distributions in dielectrics". Physical review
letters, Vol. 47, no. 20, Nov. 1981.

[23] R. Gerhard-Multhaupt, "Analysis of pressure wave methods

for the non destructive determination of spatial charge on field
distributions in dielectrics". Phys.Rev. B., Vol. 27 no. 4, 1983.

[24] J. Lewiner, "Evolution of experimental techniques for the study

of the electric properties of insulating materials". IEEE Trans.
on El. Ins., Vol. EJ-21, no. 3, [une 1986.

[25] E.F. Steennis, "Watertreeing". Thesis, Delft 1989.

[26] E.W. Billmeijer, "Textbook of polymer science". Wiley & Sons,

New York 1984.

[27] K-B Mller, "Uber das Verhalten extrudieter PE Kabel bei

hoher Gleichspannungs langzeit Belastung". Thesis Darmstadt

[28] L.A. Dissado a.o., "Electrical degradation and breakdown in

polymers". Peter Perigrines, Ltd., London, 1992.

[29] F. Chapeau a.o., "Influence of the manufacturing of LDPE on

the space charge distribution under electrical stress". Annual
Report Conf. El. Ins. and Diel. Phenomena, Claymont, Nov.

[30] CIGRE Study Committee 21, "Recommendations for tests of

power transmission DC cables for a rated voltage up to 600
kV". Electra no. 72.

[31] N. Hozum a.o., "Space charge distribution in a long size XLPE

cable using the pulsed electro acoustic-method". Conference
record 1992. IEEE Int. Symp. on El.Ins., p.294.

[32] U. Rengel, "Messung von Raumladungen in Kunststoff

Isolierungen". Bulletin SEV 83, (1992) Juli.

[33] M. Pays a.o., "Behaviour of extruded HVDC power

transmission cables: tests on materials and cables". CIGRE
1988, report 21-07.

[34] R.A. Anderson, "Direct observation of field-injected space

charge in metal-insulator-metal structure". J. Appl.Phys., 56
(10), Nov. 1984.

[35] S. Shihab, "Teilentladungen in Hohlrumen von Polymeren

Isolierstoffen bei hoher Gleichspannung". Thesis,
Braunschweig 1972.

[36] F.H. Kreuger, "Partial discharge detection in high voltage

equipment". Butterworth, London 1989.

[37] M. jeroense, Ph.D. work on HVDC cables, HV-Lab, Technical

University Delft.

[38] Experiments by A.M. Matthijse and U. Fromm in the high

voltage laboratory, T.U. Delft 1992, 1993.

[39] G.W. Trichel, "The mechanism of the negative point to plane

corona near onset", Phys.Rev. 54 (1938) 1078-1084.

[40] A. Krivda, "Discrimination and classification of partial

discharges". Thesis Delft 1995.

[41] B. Salvage, W. Sam, "Detection and measurement of discharges

in solid insuiation under direct-voltage conditions ".
Correspondence Proc. IEE, Vol. 114, no. 9, 1967.

[42] E. Favrie, Y. Pelet. "Etude du polythylne basse densit pour

l'isolation des cables d 'nergie courant continu trs haute
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[43] E.S. Roman. "Direct current long-term breakdown strength of

cross-linked polyethylene". Thesis, Kungliga Tekniska
Hgskolan, Stockholm 1980.

[44] J. Vermeer. "On the mechanism of dielectric breakdown in

glass". Thesis, Technische Hogeschool Delft, 1959.

[45] Private experience of the author.

[46] J.A. Erikson a.o. "Development work concerning testing

procedures of mass impregnated HVDC cables". CIGRE 1994,

[47] CIGRE Study Committee 12, "Voltage test on transformers and

smoothing reactors for HVDC transmission", Electra no. 46.
abc diagram 89, 91 - induced field 28, 65, 176
absorp tion current 5 - injection 14, 142
acceptance test 166 charges 7
acid by-products 126 classification of discharges 102, 105,
acoustic 106, 110, 115
-pulse 56 compressed
-wave 58 - air 33
- wave velocity 60, 68 - gas 44
additives 83 condenser bushing 34
aged cavity 127 conduction 70
ageing 117, 127 - band 73
air 33 conductive field: see resistive field
- pockets 108 conductive layers 34
amorphous regions 71, 72, 74 conductivity 75
anti-oxidants 86 conductors 72
attenuation 58, 65 continuous service 31
avalanche 119 corona 109, 112, 129
corona-like discharges 125
balanced coupling capacitor 97
- circuit 97, 100 crosslinked polyethylene 81
- detector 98 crystals 124, 129
band gap 73, 74 crystalline region 71, 74
bandwidth 68 crystallinity 71
bimodal distribution 155, 158
breakdown 135 De field 12, 20
- by discharges 127, 143 defects 138, 154
delay time 100
cable density 71
- samples 156 design 30, 177
- terminal 29 detection
calibration 51, 58, 66, 98 - circuit 97
capacitive - impedance 99
-current 5 dielectric
- field 10, 16, 18, 23, 27, 89, 176 - tests 161
- probe 36 -losses 169
capacitors 85 discharge
cavities 107, 110, 143, 157 - detection 96,164,171..176
charge - frequency 94
- accumulation 6 - intensity 90
- for ma tion 86 - magnitude 97, 107, 108, 118,
-ind uced 28 121,123,129,176


-pattem 102 impregnated paper 6

discontinuous service 31, 165 impulse tests 162
distortion 65 impurities 146
inception voltage 92, 101
elastomers 150 induced field 28, 65, 75
electric detection 117 initiation of a tree 142
electrical observation 120 injection 70,76,77,141
electrical treeing 140 insulators 72
electricity supply 4 interface 6, 7,147,160
electro-mechanical forces 138 - paper-oil 52
electron bombardment 78 intermittent operation 175
electrostatic powders 35 internal discharge 110, 111
emission 76 intrinsic breakdown 135..137
epoxy 15, 33
equipotentiallines 21, 27, 53, 176 layer-shaped dielectric 6, 14
ethylene propylene rubber 81 leakage current 5,94,169,171..175
evaluation of discharges 101, 102, 106, Lichtenberg figures 119
177 Life curve 154..158, 160, 163, 177
extraction 77 lightning 162
- pulses 172
field liquid 55, 146
- grading 33 local
- concentration 142 - charge 61
- configurations 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, - field 181
23,27,45,46,89 - field strength 61
- emission 77 - space charge 58
- mill35 logarithmic amplifier 99
fingerprint 104, 116 longitudinal field 30
low density polyethylene 71, 81
gas 55,147
GIS8 Maxwell capacitor 8, 16,22
glass 33, 136 measuring surface charges
- at an angle 43
hetero charge 6, 79, 81, 84, 176 - sensitivity 38
high density polyethylene 71, 85 mica 15
high-ohmie material 6, 86 mirror-image 85
hole 73, 77
homo charge 6, 79, 84, 85, 142 negative corona 130
homogeneous materials 70 non-energy equipment 4, 161, 162
hopping 75 normal field 45,46,47
- cable 167 oil 33, 51, 133, 146
- plug 151 - impregnated paper 33
- transmission 28 - filled cavi ties 6, 14

open terminals 63, 64 quadripole 99

optical quality
- detection 117 - assurance 178
- observation 119, 122, 128, 131, -check 168
132 - of design 177
organic acid 121 - of products 178
oscillations 80
recording discharges 100
paper 108 -at DC 105
partial discharges 89,117, 148 -withAC 101
particles 7 recovery time 92, 93,113,114,187
Paschen 127 rectifier transformers 167
- ignition voltage 113 reliability 4
- voltage 114, 121 repetition rate 90, 93, 107, 126, 145,
permissible fields 32 166, 176, 188
phase window 103, 115 residual voltage 187
pitting discharges 124, 177 resin-bonded paper 152
plastic insulated 81 resistive
plastics 33 - field 10, 16, 17, 18,23,27, 45, 46,
polarity 91, 176
-effect 156 resistivity 73
- reversal 22, 25, 28, 32, 165, 171 - grading34
polarization 12, 14 resolution 68
- current 5, 7, 78, 95 routine test 162,165,172..174
polyethylene 70, 95, 153, 154 rubber 152
polymer 108, 126
-film85 sample tests 162
porcelain 33 Schottky 77
positive corona 132 self-trap 75
power semi-conducting sereens 84
- equipment 161 semi-conductor 74
- supply systems 162 sensitivity space charge 68
- transformer 26, 149 service conditions 30
pre-stressing 144 SF6 gas 7, 15,33,133
pressure short-circuited terminals 63, 64
- pulse 56, 68, 183, 184 silicon grease 150
- pulse test 85 solids 55
- wave method 55, 61, 66 space charge 25, 51, 55, 64, 68, 128,
printboard 148, 167 154,176,179,181
probe calibration 38, 40, 41 - formation 70
pulse discrimination 99 spacer 41,42
pulseless discharge 126 spatial solution 60

square AC wave 31, 90, 173 - delay 113, 114

stability test 163, 171..175, 177 -lag 112, 177
start/stop -window 115
- situations 164 Townsend-like discharges 121, 127,
- test 174,175 177
statistical distributions 103 transformer 170
straight circuit 97 transient 5
streamer-like discharge 119,121,127, trapping 70, 74
177 treeing 140
submarine cable 24, 163, 172 Trichel-pulses 130
superposition 32 tunnelling 75
surface 7 two-dimensional diagrams 110
- charge 6, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, 35, type test 161, 163, 172, 174
- discharge 109, 110, 128, 167 vacuum 33, 147
switching surge 162, 163, 171, 172 - tube 28
valenee band 72
tangential field 18, 46 virgin cavity 119, 127
taped insulation 70 voltage
temperature 154 - life 4, 152, 153, 154, 156
- gradient 24, 29, 32,179 - wave method 55, 60
test specifications 170 volume of test sample 154, 156
- breakdown 135, 137, 139 wave velocity 60, 68
- emission 77 Weibull distribution 158, 159
- gradient 176
threshold value 166 X-ray
time - equipment 90, 164
- base 101 - generator 173
- constant 11, 12, 49, 51, 52, 53,
85, 176
'The only book dedicated to DC insulation'

The author
The author was for many years the director of an industrial
High Voltage laboratory and was simultaneously known as a
scientist because of his classic book on discharge detect ion.
He is a professor at the Delft University of Technology.

The baak
Professor Kreuger presents newly acquired knowledge and
discloses existing information on DC which was widely
scattered in literature.
He explains why high voltage DC requires a separate

- The distribution of the electric fields is far more

complicated than that of AC, whilst the fields are time
dependent as weil.

- The physical phenomena differ vastly from those of AC,

such as surface and space charges , partial discharges,
breakdown mechanisms, etc.

- The knowledge of high voltage DC lags far behind that of

AC. This book is an attempt to catch up with this lack of

'Industrial High DC Voltage ' has systematically been divided


- Electric fields and charges

- Partial discharges and breakdown mechanisms
- Testing

It forms the third volume of a series:

'Industrial High Voltage: Volume I'

- Electric fields: behaviour and calculations

- Dielectrics: breakdown mechanisms and applications
- Constructions: combinations of dielelectrics and field

'Industrial High Voltage: Volume 11 '

- Coordination: deriving test specifications from insulation

- Testing: gene rating and measuring high voltages ;
statist ics
- Measuring : C, tg 0, partial discharges.

IS BN 90-407 - 1 110-0

Delft University Press