Nanosecond, optical diagnostics for liquid dielectric switches

J. F. Kolb, S. Xiao, B. Goan, X. P. Lu, K. H. Schoenbach, M. Laroussi, J. P. Joshi, J. Dickens, A. Neuber, H. Krompholz, M. Cevallos, M. Butcher

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The high dielectric strength of liquid dielectrics allows for the design of small, low inductance and consequently fast high power switches. The investigation of the streamer formation which eventually leads to electrical breakdown requires diagnostic techniques with high temporal and spatial resolution. Optical methods, such as interferometry, Schlieren photography and shadowgraphy have been used to study the development of streamers and subsequent spark channel formation and decay in a pin-plane geometry. The temporal resolution is determined by the shutter speed of a high-speed camera, and was generally on the order of 1 ns. Interferometric measurements in water under high dielectric stress allowed for the characterization of the transient electric field distribution up to the imminent breakdown. Schlieren and shadow photographs allowed us to explore the development of the discharge and the switch recovery. With the pin electrode being the cathode tree-shaped inhomogenities expand into the gap before break-down is initiated by the formation of a single streamer that eventually bridges a gap of 400 μm in about 7 ns. The recovery is determined by the formation of a vapor bubble that is cleared from the gap in about 1 ms. In oil, the processes involving the interaction of hydrodynamic and electronic processes are more complex. DC breakdown in a pin-plane geometry is strongly polarity dependent. Successively growing trees are observed, which bridge a 1-mm gap after as much as 1 μs causing large breakdown delays. For fast pulse breakdown, the observed phenomena resemble more the ones observed in water. Gaining complete information on the breakdown phenomenology in oil requires the simultaneous use of all diagnostics methods including high resolution current measurements. Of special importance is information on the propagation of gaseous channels involved in the tree formation, and measurement of the correlated light emission indicating charge carrier amplification.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6P46
Pages (from-to)402
Number of pages1
JournalIEEE International Conference on Plasma Science
StatePublished - 2004
EventIEEE Conference Record - Abstracts: The 31st IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science, ICOPS2004 - Baltimore, MD, United States
Duration: Jun 28 2004Jul 1 2004


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