Nanosecond, electrical triggering of water switches

Shu Xiao, Ravindra P. Joshi, Juergen F. Kolb, Karl H. Schoenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Spark gaps, which use water as a switching medium, allow fast closing and high repetition rate operation for high power and high voltage switching. They are usually operated in the pulse-charging mode and have a large jitter. To reduce the jitter, a trigger electrode with positive polarity is used to initiate breakdown between a negative high voltage electrode and a ground electrode. The trigger electrode consists of a tungsten wire with a diameter of 50 m, enclosed in glass tubing. At the triple point where the three dielectrics (glass, water and metal) meet, the electric field is greatly enhanced. From the triple point, a trigger voltage of +16 kV at a pulse duration of 100 ns produces two streamer branches traveling towards the high voltage and ground electrodes. These two streamer branches bridge the main gap and serve as preionized channels for the initiation of the breakdown between the main electrodes. Arc transition develops along the two channels and completes the switching. It allows for the gap to be fired at various voltages independent of the gapÂs self-breakdown voltage. The delay between application of the trigger pulse and the electrical breakdown is on the order of hundred nanoseconds. The jitter in breakdown is on the order of ten nanoseconds. It is less by more than an order of magnitude than that obtained with pulse charging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5211856
Pages (from-to)1066-1075
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Compact pulse power.
  • Electrical triggering
  • Jitter
  • Streamer
  • Trigatron
  • Triple point
  • Water discharge
  • Water switches


Dive into the research topics of 'Nanosecond, electrical triggering of water switches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this