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Monitoring of leakage

Rev.Adv.Mater.Sci. 21(2009)
current75-89
for composite insulators and electrical devices 75

MONITORING OF LEAKAGE CURRENT FOR COMPOSITE
INSULATORS AND ELECTRICAL DEVICES

Muhammad Amin, Salman Amin and Muhammad Ali
UET Taxila, Pakistan
Received: December 03, 2007

Abstract. Electrical insulation is an important part of all electrical systems. The level of insulation
safety provided by an insulator depends on the amount of leakage current flowing on its surface.
Actually increased leakage current causes a part of high voltage to appear at dead end of insula-
tor. This voltage may sometimes be of order of 1000 to 5000 Volts depending upon weather con-
ditions. Such a level of leakage current causes hazards to public safety as well as losses. So to
monitor and keep the leakage current low is an important parameter to be considered by design-
ers and electric supply companies. This paper highlights the concepts and importance of leakage
current for insulators and general electrical devices. In addition, different methods of measure-
ments of leakage current are reviewed. Particular focus has been made on leakage current moni-
toring of composite insulators. Feasibility of these methods for some particular environments has
also been discussed.

1. INTRODUCTION to core of motor. The core is connected to motor
body; so, a voltage will appear at outer surface of
1.1. What is leakage current motor body. If the body is grounded, this voltage
Any current flowing from hot conductor to ground will cause a net current flow to ground. This cur-
over the outside surface of a device is called leak- rent is drawn directly from point of insulation fail-
age current. In case of insulators on a transmis- ure. The magnitude of this current depends only
sion line, it is the current that flows over the sur- on the resistance of ground. Depending on ground
face of insulator, and, if no ground exists, the cur- resistance there can be two cases.
rent flowing from a conductive portion of a device Case 1. The total resistance between the point
to a portion that is intended to be non conductive of insulation failure and the ground is of the order
under normal conditions [1]. of 1 to 10 ohms. In this case, very high current can
flow and it can cause winding of motor to burn or
1.2. Importance of leakage current tripping/opening of safety device if attached. The
for electrical devices safety device can be a circuit breaker, fuse, etc.
Case 2. Total resistance between point of insu-
In case of commercial electrical systems and lation failure and the ground is higher than 100 ohm
household appliances, the leakage current is di- or more, the current here will be limited to safe
rectly related to public safety. To understand this value. This will be called leakage current. Safety
fact, consider an electric motor with weak winding device may not operate at this value of current. In
insulation. Due to long time running, heating or this case the body of motor will be having a con-
some other factor, insulation may wear at some siderable amount of voltage and may cause a
point. The voltages at that point will be transferred shock to a person who touches it.
Corresponding author: Muhammad Amin, e-mail: Prof_aminee@yahoo.com

© 2009 Advanced Study Center Co. Ltd.
76 M. Amin, S. Amin and M. Ali

Fig. 1. Low resistance path over the surface of an
Fig. 2. Ceramic insulator shapes with increased
insulator.
leakage resistance.

It is quite clear that the leakage current either ever, very low levels of leakage currents have been
for a device or for insulator is drawn from the main achieved in modern insulator designs. Before in-
supply and it never contributes to developing any vention of polymeric insulators, the ceramic insu-
useful power in the load and hence causes wast- lators with reasonably low leakage current were
age of power. That’s why it is very important to mini- common. Such insulators are still available in form
mize leakage currents in all electrical and electronic of discs of different sizes and diameters as shown
devices/loads. This is also needed to eliminate in Fig. 2; these insulators can be attached together
safety hazards. The standard manufacturing pro- to make an insulator for any voltage level.
cedures use special test equipment called HIPOT The lower side of discs (see Fig. 2) has the
tester; it is discussed in Section 3.2. grooves. These are meant to increase the surface
leakage path and, hence, leakage resistance. The
1.3. Importance of leakage current leakage resistance is directly proportional to length
for insulators of surface of insulator from energized end to dead
end. The increase in leakage resistance decreases
1.3.1. Importance of leakage current the leakage current. If we don’t use such a grooved
for ceramic insulators structure then we have to increase the overall length
of insulator string by adding more discs; this ap-
In case of insulators, the leakage current may not
proach is not cost effective. But the more severe
always pose a public safety hazard. Still it becomes
problem is the increase of the swing of conductors
a very important factor to consider in design, se-
attached to it. It may result is sever conductor vi-
lection, and installation of a transmission line. The
bration and even breaking of conductor. Another
reason for this is the insulator itself whose perfor-
question arises is why not to use these grooves on
mance is drastically affected with increased leak-
upper side of discs also. This has been tried in
age current.
past a long ago and resulted in severe pollution
The current cannot pass inside the insulator,
accumulation on upper side creating bowel like
but a path of relatively low resistance exists over
structure upward that easily fills with dust and salt
the surface as shown in Fig. 1. This is actually the
pollutants and never be washed with rain. Hence,
interface between insulator surface and the air. This
no ceramic insulator today has grooves on top side.
path has low resistance than the air around insula-
The shape shown in Fig. 2 is final after many re-
tor. This is more accurately called surface leakage
search and field experiences.
current path.
Because of increasing pollution deposits, the
A small amount of leakage current flows over
leakage current of all ceramic insulators increases
this path and can never be eliminated at all. How-
Monitoring of leakage current for composite insulators and electrical devices 77

their uniform distribution of electric field and, hence,
the stress over their surface. This is due to the fact
that all insulator surface from energized end to dead
end is of same material and molded in one cast.
Increasing pollution deposits with time do not
always increase the leakage current of composite
insulators. Instead there is a complex phenomena
involved in it.
Composite insulators are made up of polymeric
materials which are organic in nature. All organic
compounds decay in natural environment. So do
the composite insulators also. This process is called
aging of insulators [2]. The leakage current of in-
sulator depends on surface resistance which, in
turn, depends on its hydrophobicity. These insula-
tors have shown a cyclic decrease and then the
Fig. 3. Polymeric insulator with rubber sheds. recovery of hydrophobicity with time. Even if pollu-
tion deposits become heavy, these insulators make
them hydrophobic by transfer of LMW [3,4]. Due
to this reason leakage current does not increase
continuously. In fact, it may happen that leakage
current first increases for about a year and then
starts decreasing. As an example for a composite
with time gradually. This continues until they reach insulator, you can expect a leakage current of 5
a point of maintenance or damage by flash over. mA after one year of service and a leakage current
Maintenance is always required for keeping it at of 2 mA after 2 years of service.
safe levels. The leakage current also varies tem- So the obvious advantage of these insulators
porarily due to environmental changes like rain, is that without maintenance and even under heavy
humidity, temperature, etc. But in most cases, these pollution deposits they maintain safe values of leak-
changes don’t require attention unless pollution age currents for long time. However, temporary
deposits increase considerably. variations in leakage current due to environmental
changes for these insulators are similar to that for
1.3.2. Importance of leakage current ceramic ones.
for composite insulators
For composite insulators which have been intro- 2. TYPES OF LEAKAGE CURRENT
duced commercially about 25 years ago, the leak- There are two types of leakage current:
age current is also an important factor to consider. 1) DC leakage current;
However, the design of these insulators is such that 2) AC leakage current.
they offer a very high surface leakage resistance.
This structure has a fiber reinforced rod as the main
2.1. DC leakage current
strength member, which is covered on outside by
a polymeric rubber. The whole structure is then fit- It can be caused when a source of DC voltage is
ted with two end fittings to make a complete insu- shorted directly or with a very low resistance onto
lator in one assembly. This is the reason they are itself; it usually applies only to appliances using high
called composite insulators since the complete in- DC voltages only. Many consumer appliances use
sulator is one unit as shown in Fig. 3. low voltage DC levels below 48 volts, at these volt-
The rubber covering the rod is not straight but ages leakage current is not an issue to consider.
molded to give a shape of what is called a weather For example, a radio using 6 V DC from AC gets
shed. Many types of polymeric rubber have been developed a partial short path between its DC volt-
used by different manufacturers of polymeric insu- age and neutral of step down transformer. Such a
lators. But since all them belong to rubber family, fault will only cause a few milliAmperes of current
so they have good leakage current suppression to flow. Such a flow will be called DC leakage cur-
ability. The beautiful feature of these insulators is rent because it will be only one directional and con-
78 M. Amin, S. Amin and M. Ali

stant in magnitude. This may not even cause any Table 1. Leakage current values from IEC950
effect on working of radio and user cannot even standards.
detect it.
But it does not mean that DC leakage current is Device Insulation Type Maximum Safe
always harmless or unimportant. To understand its Leakage Current
importance, consider a CRT picture tube with high
voltage fly back transformer. A worst nature of DC Double Insulated 0.25 mA
leakage current can occur if the voltage from out- Grounded Hand Held 0.75 mA
put of fly back finds a low resistance path to its Movable 3.5 mA
own ground. In most cases, a small amount of cur- Stationary
rent flowing to such a short will burn the fly back (Not Mounted) 4.0 mA
itself. In worst cases, it can cause a fire or shock a Stationary
person due to appearance of a very high voltage (Permanently 5.0 mA
at mounting screws of CRT. Mounted)
DC locomotives also have some issues related
to DC leakage current, but they are mostly obso-
lete these days. In places where it is used, satis-
factory results have been achieved, especially af- for long time, because it either burns out the appli-
ter the commercial introduction of twin disc poly- ance or operates safety breakers. The leakage
meric insulators. Few problems or accidents are current, however, can not be detected easily. That’s
ever reported due to leakage current in other DC why some times called “silent current”. When leak-
systems. age current is due to insulation failure, it is inde-
pendent of capacitances.
2.2. AC leakage current
2.2.1. AC Leakage current in
AC leakage current is very common phenomena
insulators
and applies to many electrical devices and insula-
tors. It will be discussed separately for electrical The major part of leakage current in insulators is
devices and insulators. contributed by DC resistance of the surface. This
is contrary to case of electrical devices where ca-
2.2.1. AC Leakage current in electrical pacitive leakage current dominates. The reason is
devices that insulators are used at power frequencies. The
power frequency is not higher than 60 Hz anywhere.
AC is the current that is caused by parallel combi- At this frequency, the skin effect and capacitance
nation of leakage capacitance and DC resistance are low and constant; the change occurs only in
between a voltage source and grounded conduc- resistive component of leakage current. Therefore,
tive parts of a device. In all electrical devices, leak- in most of research regarding characteristics of
age current caused by capacitance dominates over insulators, only surface resistance and resistive
the leakage current caused by DC resistance. The portion of leakage current are taken into account
reason is that DC resistance is made sufficiently [5-7].
high during design to minimize DC leakage cur-
rent. So, we can say that major source of AC leak-
2.3. Safe levels of leakage current for
age current in electrical device is leakage capaci-
electrical devices
tance.
However, capacitances aroused there between For all consumer and medical devices, safe val-
hot and grounded parts of electrical devices are ues of leakage currents are specified by IEC950
sometimes intentional and sometimes not. Inten- safety standard; values for double insulated and
tional capacitances are due to use of capacitive grounded devices are listed in Table 1.
filters. Unintentional capacitances arise at places
like between two adjacent tracks in a PCB, insula- 2.4. Allowable levels of leakage
tions between semiconductors and heat sinks, etc. current for insulators
The insulation failure is always unintentional and
causes a flow of either leakage current or short The leakage current values for insulators are not
circuit current. The short circuit current can not flow fixed and yet not defined strictly by any standards
Monitoring of leakage current for composite insulators and electrical devices 79

Fig. 4. Basic Circuit of a HIPOT tester and connection to test a motor insulation.

organization. The major reason is that insulators necting the meter in series with the grounding con-
are always mounted at height; therefore, their leak- nection of the device concerned. For information
age current limit is set according to reliability of processing equipment, the ground connection is
operation rather than safety. So we can not state opened and the current flowing to the neutral side
an exact value of maximum leakage current for of the power line is measured. For medical equip-
any insulator. Instead, a limit is defined by power ment, the current flowing to ground is measured.
companies; this limit also varies from country to The meter may also be connected between the
country and even sometimes within a country. For outputs of the power supply and ground. The test
any transmission line, this limit is defined regard- conditions include swapping the AC line and neu-
ing the type of insulators used, voltage rating, and tral connections, and turning power switches off
quality of service required and limits of losses for and on while monitoring the current. The test is
that line. performed after the equipment has warmed to nor-
However, the maximum limit in any case is 100 mal operating temperature and, in some cases,
mA, although observed values in dry weather lie following certain tests that cause abnormally high
from a few microamperes to 5 mA. In wet weather, temperatures within the equipment. The intent is
the leakage currents spikes of up to 50 mA or so to identify and measure the worst-case leakage
are considered safe and OK. current [1].
In service, online leakage current monitoring For very low leakage currents, the meter is re-
system developed at Monterrey, Mexico [5], have placed with a network consisting of either a resis-
shown leakage current peaks of even 450 mA on tor or a resistor and capacitor combination. The
actual insulators in outdoor environment just after voltage drop across the network is then measured
two months of installation. However, this was a rare using a sensitive AC voltmeter. Ungrounded or
case and never happened again after those faulty double-insulated equipment is checked by connect-
insulators were replaced. ing the meter between any touchable conductive
part and ground. In the case of nonconductive
3. LEAKAGE CURRENT housings, a copper foil of a specific size is placed
MEASUREMENT OF ELECTRICAL on the housing, and the current flowing from it to
DEVICES ground is measured.

3.1 Direct measurement [1] 3.2. HIPOT leakage current testers [8]
In most cases, direct measurement has sufficient The HIPOT test also called Dielectric Withstand
accuracy and a meter specially designed for mea- Test is a routine test that is performed in electrical
suring leakage currents is used. The current flow- production industry. This is a high voltage test that
ing in the ground conductor is measured by con- stresses the insulation of an electrical product far
80 M. Amin, S. Amin and M. Ali

beyond what it will encounter in normal operation 3.3. Leakage current monitoring of
throughout its life. If the insulation of product can surge arrestors and HV devices.
withstand a much higher voltage for a given time
then it can withstand normal voltage for its whole A common technique is to employ a unity value
life. resistor is series with surge arrestor and take
The basic function of HIPOT tester is to moni- samples of voltage across it. The samples can be
tor excessive leakage current to ground. The ex- taken at fixed interval or depending upon value of
cessive leakage current flowing to ground indicates sample. In second method, samples are also taken
a fault in insulation. Hipot tester applies a high volt- at regular intervals, but only a value greater than a
age across the insulation of device that is tested. preset is recorded and all others are discarded.
This voltage is usually greater 1500 Volts or so to This results in samples of increased and abnor-
test a device that is intended to be used on 220 mal values only. Such a scheme has been used in
Volts, a typical circuit and test connections are many researches [9-11], more detail on surge ar-
shown in Fig. 4. Terminals A and B are connected restors leakage current characteristics is given in
to supply voltage of 220 or 110, terminal C is [12,13].
grounded, return lead is floating as shown here.
The device to be tested should be placed on some 4. IMPORTNACE OF LEAKAGE
insulating surface separated electrically from CURRENT FOR INSULATORS
ground and device is connected between return
In any service environment where insulators are
lead and HV out terminal. Connection for testing a
used, pollution exists. In some areas level of pollu-
motor is shown in Fig. 4. Motor’s case is isolated
tion is low and does not requires maintenance and
from ground, one lead from winding is connected
cleaning of insulators even for long times. But in
to HV out probe and return lead to motor body. This
majority of environments like coastal and indus-
applies high voltage across winding and case. If
trial areas, insulators get severe pollution deposit.
winding is weak or short at some point to case a
These deposits upon wetting can discharge and
current will flow to return lead and mA meter will
dry band arcing over surface. This causes degra-
show that current. Almost all HIPOT testers have
dation and may lead to flashover [14].
an over current trip to protect the tester itself. This
Flashover is formation of arc over surface of
is necessary in case if device is totally shorted to
insulator. This arc may sustain for long duration to
its body and excessive current flows on applica-
cause insulator break down or for short duration to
tion of high voltage from HIPOT tester.
cause dips in transmission voltage. It is quite nec-
Some older designs of HIPOT testers had their
essary to prevent flashovers in all conditions of
return lead also connected to transformer core and
weather. This requires regular checking of pollu-
ground. This causes a potential problem since a
tion deposit on every insulator and cleaning/re-
certain capacitance is always present between
placement of dusty/faulty insulator respectively. But
transformer windings and core. This capacitance
it is very difficult to examine energized insulators
also causes a leakage current to flow to return lead
due to their height, voltage across them, and their
and hence pass through the mA meter. For this
location. Transmission lines pass through moun-
reason, the device will show leakage current with-
tains, terrains, and horrible places. The idea of
out any device connected. Alternately, we can say
monitoring insulators on them physically/manually
that device will monitor its own internal leakages;
is totally out of scope.
this causes an error in actual current what user is
So we need to detect when a certain string of
attempting to measure. In past solution to this was
insulators or all insulators in an area require clean-
to offset the internal leakage current by an offset
ing/replacement. The surface pollution changes two
circuit, but this approach too has many drawbacks.
major characteristics of insulators which are Hy-
Most of HIPOT testers come with floating return
drophobicity and Leakage Current.
as discussed above.
All methods of hydrophobicity measurement [2]
It is also very important to keep in mind that a
require human intervention close to insulators,
HIPOT tester HV probe and return should never
which is obviously not possible on energized insu-
be connected across both terminals of a device,
lator on a transmission line. The leakage current
e.g. two motor terminals in above case. This will
measurement, however, is very feasible. It is thus
obviously burn the device and/or damage the tester
very popular and widely adopted all over the world
itself.
for condition monitoring of energized transmission
Monitoring of leakage current for composite insulators and electrical devices 81

line insulators. Usually, a hardware that measures luted industrial area with coal burn offs and saltish
and transmits the value of leakage current is in- pollution. The industrial pollution in that area also
stalled on a few towers and readings are observed contains sulphates. The sulphates under wet con-
in substation at remote area. Depending upon these ditions are more conductive than chlorides which
values of leakage, current maintenance is sched- are also found in coastal areas [6]; this was the
uled. The methods developed for this in different reason to choose industrial area for this testing.
areas of world will be discussed in Section 5. This setup consists of ceramic and composite
The leakage current is directly proportional to insulators installed in bridging positions on the on
surface pollution deposit. As the pollution layer be- the tension tower at each of three cross arm lev-
comes thick, it traps more water under rain or wet- els. Composite insulators were main concerns
ting conditions. The more water on surface, the which were installed in series with good quality
less is surface resistance and more is the leakage ceramic insulators. The purpose of ceramic insu-
current. However, a temporary rise in leakage cur- lator was to get leakage current reading. Trans-
rent value is not taken as indication of maintenance ducers for monitoring leakage current were at-
required. The reason is that it can only be due to tached in parallel to these ceramic insulators. One
increased humidity around insulator. Such a con- may think that presence of ceramic insulator in se-
dition can be guessed by analyzing decreasing val- ries reduced the actual leakage current of com-
ues of leakage current for few hours after an in- posite insulator. This is true, but not leading to false
crease has been observed. results. The reason is that the change in leakage
The behavior discussed above applies in gen- current under different weather and pollution con-
eral to all types of insulators. But polymeric or com- ditions is more important than to monitor installed
posite insulators may show a deviation. It means value of leakage current [16]. It is obvious that ce-
that a composite insulator can have a low value of ramic insulator in series will cause a less leakage
leakage current even with heavy pollution deposit. current than if composite insulator was present
If this happens, the reason is that composite insu- alone. But this will not stop the changes in the value
lators have Low Molecular Weight components of leakage current that composite insulator will
(LMWs), which are highly mobile and responsible cause due to environmental factors.
for surface resistance. Pollution deposits reduce The values from all twelve transducers on four
surface resistance, but with passage of time, some towers go to data center. The data center has an
of the LMW in bulk of insulator migrate to pollution A/D converter, signal conditioner, and a multiplexer.
layer [3,4,15]. This makes pollution layer more re- The signal after passing from these devices is given
sistive and, hence, enables composite insulators to a fiber optical emitter and conveyed to swan bank
to maintain low leakage current values even in pres- power station in Australia over fiber cable. At this
ence of pollution layer. station, leakage current data is continuously ana-
Many setups for leakage current monitoring of lyzed taking 20 minute average base.
energized ceramic and composite insulators have The results indicate best leakage current sup-
been developed, they will be reviewed now. pression capability of Silicon Rubber (SiR) insula-
tors. Decreasing length of a certain SiR insulator
5. LEAKAGE CURRENT from 6112 mm to 4801 mm only caused a very
MEASUREMENT IN SERVICE slight increase in leakage current. The EPDM was
INSULATORS found to come next with 2 to 3 times the leakage
current of SiR. However, after every prolonged rain,
these current levels decreased. It was observed
5.1. 275 KV transmission line that rain did not remove pollution from composite
insulators leakage current insulators sufficiently; still these insulators preserve
monitoring setup [6] good leakage current suppression. The reason for
this is LMW transfer to pollution layer making it
This setup was constructed by Queens Land Elec- hydrophobic [17].
tric Company (QEC), Australia in 1978 to investi- From the results of this site, it was also noted
gate long and short term outdoor performance of that strings of porcelain performed reliably but have
insulators. Initially, it was without leakage current poor leakage current suppression compared to
monitoring. After several failures, QEC initiated a composite insulators under wet and contaminated
project to develop leakage current monitoring in conditions.
late 1980’s. The test site chosen was a highly pol-
82 M. Amin, S. Amin and M. Ali

5.2. Setup to predict leakage current
from wind velocity [18]
In this study a mathematical relationship between
leakage current and wind velocity has been found.
The relationship provides a good resemblance with
actual measured values of leakage current.
The leakage current of polluted insulators de-
pends on exposure time, insulator weight, static
arc constant, and wind velocity. The effect of all
these factors was monitored by aging the insula-
tors on 275 kV line in YTL power station, Malaysia.
Leakage current was measured using an electrode
Fig. 5. Current Transformer used as Leakage Cur-
near first dead end shed of insulator. The highest
rent transducer.
leakage current peaks were monitored along with
wind velocity. Using all this data and dimensional
analysis technique, a relationship was found that
is expressed as
I = Dc (Wv)b,
where I= Leakage Current, Wv =Wind Velocity, Dc=
Dimensional Constant, b=exponent, more details necessary when peaks of 250 mA or more are
can be found in [18]. observed in rainy season [5].

5.3. On-line leakage current 5.4. Leakage current monitoring
monitoring of 400 KV line setup for composite insulators in
insulators in Mexico [5] Pakistan [2]
A system for measurement of leakage current and This setup was developed in University of Engi-
surface resistance of insulators was developed in neering and Technology, Taxila, to investigate the
Monterrey, Mexico. This system was installed on behavior and performance of composite insulators
several towers along the 400 kV line as a diagnos- in the extremely polluted and hot areas of Paki-
tic tool to monitor the surface condition of polluted stan. A field test site was also developed in a pol-
insulators. luted industrial area in which a facility for fixing the
In this setup, the leakage current was measured insulators in open atmosphere at height of about
by using a Current Transformer (CT) with high per- 15 meter from ground is available. On this test
meability core. Primarily, the CT was connected stand, insulators of various kinds and sizes are
directly between the first and second bell of the attached and energized with high voltage provided
ceramic insulator string (on dead end) and six turns by a 10 kV, 1 kVA Commercial High voltage trans-
of wire on CT window as shown in Fig. 5. former.
Secondary, the CT was given to data acquisi- A leakage current monitoring system includes
tion system (DAS) using a coaxial cable. The DAS a current transducer and a microcontroller based
had three stages. First stage measures the basic circuit. The current transducer was also installed
value of leakage current using a full wave rectifier in series with insulators at dead end and voltage
to give maximum peak. The second stage mea- across it was sampled by a precision operational
sures highest leakage current peak at each semi amplifier circuit. This voltage then passed through
cycle of signal and the third stage registers and a signal conditioner and isolator and then given to
stores data using a microcontroller circuit and microcontroller circuit which exports it to computer
memory. on RS232 protocol. A simple VB program in the
The results showed values from 50 to 150 mA computer stores these values at every 20 minute
in first two months of installation. But such high interval and any value greater than 5 mA that ever
values never appear again when some of faulty occurred.
insulators were replaced once. The authors sug- The composite insulators are energized in this
gest that cleaning or replacement of insulators is setup since 2005 and still under monitoring. Up till
Monitoring of leakage current for composite insulators and electrical devices 83

now, satisfactory results on the performance of given a relationship for calculation of pollution layer
these insulators have been achieved except two thickness (S) as
major flashovers which occurred in rainy season
S = p(r22- r12),
of 2006.
where r1= radius of insulator and r2= radius of insu-
5.5. Leakage current monitoring lator + pollution layer.
system in Victorian Power
Station, Australia [19] 5.6. Leakage current monitoring
setup for composite insulators in
This system was based on computer aided leak-
coastal area [14]
age current measurement, recording, and analy-
sis. The notable feature of this system is that it This system was established by Chalmers Univer-
optically isolated the leakage current sensor from sity of Technology in Sweden on west coastal area.
measuring and recording electronics. The system In this system a glass insulator is added between
comprises of a leakage current collector resistor the HTV silicon insulator and the tower to allow the
and optical isolator, electro-optical conversion, op- measurement of the leakage current. System moni-
tical fiber link, optical to electrical conversion, mi- tors a total of 20 insulators at a time. The signal
crocomputer based metering, and recording facil- across cap insulator is conducted through a co-
ity. axial cable along the tower. In case of a flashover
The leakage current is collected by a copper the discharge current passes through a lightning
ring connected in series between a resistor and arrester flash counter which records the flashover.
grounded insulator end. The AC voltage across this The detectors are designed to measure the
one Ohm resistor is converted into DC by an RMS pulse peak value and consist of four parts: an emit-
to DC converter. This DC voltage is then fed to a ter follower, a comparator, a logic control circuit,
voltage controlled oscillator which gives a square and a sample and hold (S/H) circuit. The input volt-
wave pulse signal. The frequency of this pulse var- age is compared with the voltage held at the S/H
ies in accordance with AC voltage across resistor circuit. This means that the registered pulse am-
connected with insulator and hence with leakage plitude corresponds to the highest value of the pulse
current. This pulsating signal is given to optical fi- peaks arriving to the detector during the sampling
ber emitter which does light modulation. The light interval. All units are monitored by a digital data
modulated signal travels over optical fiber and is acquisition system. It is known that the leakage
received by an optical fiber detector at remote end current below 1 mA does not produce significant
where a computer based data acquisition, analy- arcing [20-22]. Therefore, for leakage current val-
sis, and storage system is present. The problem ues up to 1 mA, the leakage current data is regis-
of transmitting the weak electrical signals over large tered every 30 minutes. For values between 1 and
distance with minimum noise and distortion is suc- 5 mA, the data is registered once every 10 min-
cessfully solved by use of optical fiber link. Link utes and the recording is done at rate of one per
distances of up to 4 kilometers were demonstrated minute for currents higher than 5 mA. All this data
with this system. is stored in the main computer located at the
The received signal is given to a Multi-channel Chalmers High Voltage laboratory.
Input Card (MIC) whose main purpose is to count The results show that HTV silicone rubber in-
the incoming pulses and transfer the result to the sulators with creepage distance of 27.6 mm/kV
computer. Software program converts the output showed maximum current leakage current of 2 mA.
data from the card into actual leakage current val- The same insulator with creepage distance of 17.3
ues. The sampling rate can be changed from soft- mm/kV showed currents exceeding 25 mA. The
ware. This allows changing data rates. A fast sam- maximum current pulses recorded on the porce-
pling rate allows capturing every peak when heavy lain insulator with 30 mm/kV is also 25 mA. So it
current surges are occurring, while a slow sam- can be considered that composite HTV silicone
pling rate reduces the data and saves memory insulators maintained high surface resistance un-
space when there is low discharge activity. A num- der severe salt storm conditions of Swedish west
ber of tests were performed on the 66 kV post in- coast. Insulators did not develop any continuous
sulators with various degrees of conductive pollu- dry band arcing, degradation or erosion even after
tion on its surface. From the results authors have 7 years of exposure in this environment
84 M. Amin, S. Amin and M. Ali

Fig. 6. Block Diagram of MCIC system [data from 7].

5.7. An advanced leakage current mA) were monitored using MCIC system. The other
monitoring setup for RTV coated test conditions are given in [7]. The results show
composite insulators [7] that the RTV coated insulators have conducted
much less leakage current, accumulated less
A multi channel current integrator-cum peak clas- charge, and less pulse count as compared to the
sifier for on line Leakage current measurement of porcelain insulators. The low leakage current of
RTV coated insulators was developed mutually by RTV coated insulators is due to hydrophobicity of
central power research institute, Uppal and Ban- the coating, which also results in less charge ac-
galore in India [7]. cumulation and less pulse count.
It is designed to monitor leakage currents in a
maximum of seven insulators. The eighth channel
5.8. Leakage current measurement by
is used to give a reference sinusoidal signal to sys-
wavelet transformation and
tem. The system uses this signal to detect half cycle
duration. This eight-channel system consists of a instantaneous sampling methods
set of input signal conditioners and a PC-based [23].
plug-in multifunction card for digitizing the eight This setup was developed in Japan by Chubu Uni-
input signals. A Windows-based MCIC software versity. The setup was actually developed for many
program developed in Lab VIEW controls the digi- other purposes including leakage current monitor-
tizing hardware. ing of Composite insulators [24]. Salt fog ageing
The MCIC system has been fabricated by the tests were conducted in this setup according to the
following components: (1) sample and hold regis- specifications given by CIGRE WG 15-06 [25].
ter, (2) isolation amplifier, and (3) data acquisition The research described in [23] was done to in-
system. These components, along with other sup- vestigate what kind of leakage current is most in-
port components, were integrated on a printed cir- fluential on aging deterioration of polymeric insula-
cuit board (PCB) to form a data acquisition sys- tors. How different leakage current measuring
tem. A block diagram of the MCIC hardware con- methods give results and what is the effect of UV
figuration is shown in Fig. 6. The MCIC system radiation on leakage current.
accepts eight analogue voltage inputs with input Insulators were subjected to salt fog test in
isolation up to 1500 Volts. chamber. The leakage current was measured by
The MCIC system analyses the leakage cur- measuring voltage across a 100 Ohm resistor
rent online and stores the values of average leak- placed in series between the insulator sample and
age current, peak leakage current, pulse count, ground. This voltage was converted into digital
charge, and current squared integral. value by an A/D converter and then given to com-
Samples of porcelain and RTV coated insula- puter via RS232 interface for recording. Half
tors were aged in a chamber for about 70 hours. samples were aged without UV radiation and half
Leakage current, accumulated charge, and pulse with UV radiation of 15 mW/cm2. All specimens
count (any leakage current peak greater than 50 were of 250 mm length and 30 mm diameter. Leak-
Monitoring of leakage current for composite insulators and electrical devices 85

age current was measured by two different meth- pling unit that transforms it into RS-485 protocol
ods [26]. which can be transmitted over to a PC at compara-
Method 1: This method was adopted to see the tively long distance, more details can be seen in
effect of UV on leakage current. In this method, [11].
the wavelet transformation of leakage current mea-
sured by sampling rate of 10000 per second was 5.10. Software algorithms for leakage
determined. Leakage current was divided into three current monitoring systems
components: conductive, dry band, and pulsive.
Most of degradation among these components is Reference literature contains a small number of
caused by dry band arcing [27]. works on the software aspect of systems for leak-
Conductive components are components which age current monitoring. A good work has been pre-
have the shape providing voltage supply with mini- sented in [28]; in this paper, algorithms are devel-
mum distortion. Pulsive component appears like oped for detection of leakage faults from monitor-
surges on conductive current shape, and the dry ing data. These algorithms are developed on the
band arc component is that lags more than π/10 base of fault lists, they help to find out a fault con-
from supply voltage. dition by analyzing previous fault lists. Further de-
The results show that samples exposed to UV tails can be seen in [28].
radiation have smaller values of leakage currents
than those which were not exposed to UV. The rea- 6. ELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
son could be drying of surface due to heating LEAKAGE CURRENT AND OTHER
caused by UV. The dried surface also has more FACTORS
hydrophobicity. Accumulative charge was also less
on samples exposed to UV as compared to others 6.1. Leakage current and degradation
[23]. of composite insulators [27]
Method 2: This method was adopted to see the A correlation between progressive degradation and
effect of UV radiation on aging deterioration. In this the changes of leakage current components was
method the instantaneous magnitude of leakage investigated in this study. Leakage current was
current was measured by sampling rate of 1000 monitored by a data acquisition system (DAS) with
per second and accumulated charge was calcu- 12-bit, 8-channel analog/digital (AD) converter. The
lated. Minimum measurable value of leakage cur- DAS consisted of a 12-bit, 8 channel AD converter
rent is 1 mA. The occurrences of 10, 50, and 100 which sampled the leakage current on all insula-
mA surges were also counted every minute. tors continuously. The sampling rate of the AD con-
The results from this method did not show any verter was 12.5 kHz. A microcomputer was used
count of leakage current pulses of 10, 50, or 100 to get peak and average values and the integral of
mA for silicon rubber samples. Only surges of 10 the current to yield cumulative charge from sampled
mA were observed on porcelain insulators. But values. The numbers of leakage current pulses in
even porcelain did not have any surge count of 50 the range of 10, 10 to 30, 30 to 50, and >50 mA
or 100 mA. Based on these authors claim that surge were measured.
counting levels of 10, 50, and 100 mA are too high The most important result of this research is
and meaningless, when trying to investigate aging that degradation can be observed from waveform
deterioration of composite insulators. of leakage current. A distorted waveform of leak-
age current is a sign of degradation. The extent of
5.9. Transmission of leakage current distortion can be found quantitatively by measur-
reading using RS-485 protocol ing the ratio of Peak to RMS value of leakage cur-
[11] rent.

This system was designed for continuous leakage
6.2. Leakage current and
current monitoring of metal oxide surge arrestors
on many towers and its transmission over hydrophobicity.
RS-485 bus to a single computer. However, the Leakage current is directly proportional to hydro-
same system can be used for insulators also. The phobicity loss, especially for composite insulators.
leakage current signal is taken from surge arres- The more is the loss of Hydrophobicity, the more
tor by inserting a series resistance and measuring the leakage current becomes; this fact has been
voltage across it. This voltage is given to data sam- reported in many studies [23,29-31]. The leakage
86 M. Amin, S. Amin and M. Ali

current monitoring requires no need to use com-
plex image processing softwares to estimate sur-
face deterioration. The measurement of leakage
6.8. Leakage current and temperature
current just needs the computer to record its val-
ues after a certain time intervals or after some cer- Temperature changes produce negligible effect on
tain changes in value of current as discussed in leakage current value.
Section 5.6.
6.9. Effect of fillers adding on leakage
6.3. Leakage current and EQ. Salt current of composite insulators
deposit density (ESDD)
Effect of ATH (alumina Tri-hydrate)adding was in-
This relationship was investigated in [5] and also vestigated in [12]. It was seen that adding ATH up
reported by [32]. Leakage current was found to 50 pph decreased leakage current value, but
directly proportional to ESDD. The lower is the adding a very high amount of ATH again increased
leakage current, the lower is the ESDD and vice it. So a low amount of filler is suggested helpful if
versa. The same behavior was also observed in one is wishing to make a material with reduced
aging of composite insulators in Pakistan [2]. The leakage currents. Adding to much filler destroys
surface resistance is inversely proportional to the purpose.
ESDD.
6.10. Leakage current, corona, and
6.4. Leakage current and flashover dry band arcing [12]
voltage
Under a case when a small dry band arcing starts,
The flashover voltage decreases with ESDD in- the leakage current becomes resistive in nature
crease [32,33]. But ESDD is directly proportional and its waveform becomes non-linear. This wave-
to leakage current, so we can conclude that as the form shows distortion from the basic sinusoidal
leakage current increases, the voltage at which shape. Leakage current waveform also has spikes
flashover will occur decreases. In other words, leak- which correspond to occurring of corona.
age current is inversely proportional to flashover
voltage. 7. DISCUSSION
The significance of leakage current for all electri-
6.5. Leakage Current and Humidity
cal devices and insulators can never be ignored.
Leakage current increases as the humidity in- Leakage currents flowing towards grounded parts
creases [2,23,30]. of electrical devices directly pose a public safety
hazard. Insulation weakness/failure is only reason
6.6. Leakage current and UV for this. The ordinary measurements of leakage
radiation. currents can be done using µA meters.
Leakage current in case of high voltage insula-
UV radiation applied on composite as well as ce- tors are important to consider even they may not
ramic insulators causes a reduction in value of leak- always pose safety hazard for public. The reason
age current [2,23]. is that insulators are also affected a lot with the
amount of leakage current flowing on their surface.
6.7. Leakage current and insulator Increase in leakage current causes a net genera-
length tion of heat on surface. This heat damages the in-
sulator surface and also causes a slightly burned
Increasing of the surface creepage distance of
path with low resistance over the surface. Such a
ceramic insulator helps to reduce the leakage cur-
path gives rise to dry band arcing. This can lead to
rent, the same is valid for composite insulators;
failure or flash over of insulator. Ceramic insula-
however, the composite insulators in some places
tors can shatter upon excessive dry band arcing
have shown a very slight effect of surface creep-
and composite insulators although will never shat-
age resistance on leakage current. Investigation
ter, but are affected in a more complicated way as
on decreasing in the length of a certain SiR com-
the heat of excessive dry band arcing causes scis-
posite insulator from 6112 mm to 4801 mm caused
sion and loss of the low molecular weight compo-
a very slight increase in leakage current only [6].
Monitoring of leakage current for composite insulators and electrical devices 87

nents (LMW) chains in silicon rubber layer of com- filed. Such tests yield a failure of insulator but are
posite insulators. The loss of LMW’s causes a re- not realistic.
duction in surface resistance. Even it was found in
[34] that ceramic insulators coated with thin layer 8. CONCLUSION
of silicon rubber performed excellent in contami-
nated conditions. The reason is transfer of LMW To detect leakage current levels accurately for pro-
from rubber layer to surface of pollution deposit duction line equipments, HIPOT tester with float-
same as it occurs in case of composite insulators. ing return is a good choice.
The other diagnostic techniques currently in use The most common approach, used at many
for accessing insulator surface degradation are sites of leakage current monitoring, is to measure
surface conductivity test, hydrophobicity measure- leakage current by inserting a precision unity value
ment, equivalent salt deposit density (ESDD), resistor or special purpose current transducer(e.g.
method of measurement of flashover voltage a CT with high permeability core) in series with in-
(FOV), leakage current monitoring, etc. Among sulator and to measure voltage across it. This volt-
these, leakage current monitoring is considered age is then translated to actual values by some
most suitable as it is easy and possible while insu- microcontroller and/or computer system and soft-
lators are energized on-line [27]. ware.
The major environmental factors effecting leak- Ceramic insulators are known to increase their
age current are humidity, rain, and salt/pollution leakage current with increasing surface pollution
deposits. On newly installed insulator, leakage cur- deposits. The same does not exactly applies to
rent is low but as the pollution deposits on the sur- composite insulators which are well known for their
face and insulator is wetted by humidity/rain, the degradation and then recovery of surface resis-
leakage current increases. The initial values of leak- tance [3,4,15,27,35,36].
age current for SiR composite insulators were ob- Before developing a laboratory aging cycle, it is
served approximately half of those for the EPDM necessary to conduct outdoor leakage current
and quarter of those for ceramic insulator. For com- monitoring effect of dry-band arcing on actual in-
posite insulators, there is a small variation in leak- sulators. The dry band arcing has been found ma-
age current values observed with time. jor degradation factor.
Generally, it is known that the leakage current In general, it is reported form many sites that
is divided into three parts, first one caused by dry leakage current values are lower in actual field
band arcing, second by presence of some electro- conditions, as compared to those obtained in labo-
lyte on surface which cause conductivity and third ratory aging cycles. Based on this, we can say that
one is pulsive. Pulsive part is contributed due to periods of maintenance predicted from laboratory
lightening and other switching surges and lasts only aging tests can be increased for in service insula-
for short times and least dangerous. The current tors [36].
caused by electrolytic conductivity is not consid-
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