Phenomenology of conduction and breakdown in transformer oil

M. Butcher, M. Cevallos, M. Haustein, A. Neuber, J. Dickens, H. Krompholz

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In a coaxial test apparatus enabling the measurement of voltage and current at the test gap, dc conduction and breakdown in transformer oil caused by the application of dc voltages are investigated. Current measurements cover the range from 10-11 A to 1 kA, with temporal resolutions of milliseconds at the lowest current amplitudes to sub-nanoseconds for currents larger than 10-4 A. The dc current/voltage characteristic for sub-breakdown voltage amplitudes point to the injection of charge carriers, allow us to characterize the transport mechanisms, and the influence of space charges. For voltages approaching breakdown thresholds, quasi de-currents rising from nanoamperes to microamperes are superimposed by current pulses with amplitudes of milliamperes and above, and durations of nanoseconds. The onset of these current pulses occurs up to 10 μs before breakdown. One of these current pulses reaches a critical amplitude causing voltage breakdown and current rise to the impedance-limited value within 2 ns. Additional optical diagnostics using photomultipliers and high-speed photography with gated microchannel plates yield information on hydrodynamic processes and charge carrier amplification mechanisms associated with the current pulses and final breakdown, such as bubble formation, as well as on the development of the spark plasma finally bridging the gap.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-304
Number of pages4
JournalConference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena (CEIDP), Annual Report
StatePublished - 2003
Event2003 Annual Report: Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dieletric Phenomena - Albuquerque, NM, United States
Duration: Oct 19 2003Oct 22 2003


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