Dielectric surface flashover in vacuum at 100 K

A. Neuber, M. Butcher, L. L. Hatfield, M. Kristiansen, H. Krompholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Cryogenic components in high power electrical systems and in power electronics gain more and more importance. The behavior of insulators for cryogenic conditions, however, is virtually unknown. In a fast coaxial setup, dielectric test sample and electrodes in vacuum are cooled to <100 K and flashover is characterized using fast electrical and optical diagnostics. Three consecutive development stages for flashover in self-breakdown mode with a gap distance of 0.5 cm can be distinguished: (1) A fast current rise to mA amplitudes within approximately 2 ns, probably associated with field emission, followed by (2) a slow current rise to approximately 5 to 10 A amplitude with duration of 40 ns to 1 μs, associated with secondary emission avalanche saturation, and (3) a transition to a rapid gaseous ionization above the sample caused by electron induced outgassing, leading to impedance-limited current amplitudes of ≤300 A. Phase (1) shows a higher final current at lower temperature, which is probably due to a higher initial velocity of the secondary electrons, the duration of phase (2) is a decreasing function of breakdown voltage and only slightly dependent on temperature, which points to a weak temperature dependence of the outgassing process. Flashover potentials show a slight increase at lower temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-515
Number of pages4
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


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