Surface Charge Distribution Mapping Using an Electrostatic Probe

Micah Lapointe, Benedikt Esser, Ivan Aponte, Zachary Cardenas, James Dickens, John Mankowski, Jacob Stephens, Donald Friesen, Crystal Nelson, Neil Koone, David Hattz, Andreas Neuber

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Undesired accumulation of charge on dielectric materials causing electrostatic discharges can be an issue in pulsed power systems and electrical systems in general. As such, an understanding of surface charge distribution, charge accumulation, and decay is required. An in-house no-contact electrostatic probe designed with a 2 mm resolution was fabricated to measure and map surface charge distribution. Designed as a contactless instrument, the probe consisting of a metal rod and low leakage amplifier circuit probes the electric potential near the surface. A scan of the surface then provides the raw data, a potential distribution. The actual probe response-i.e., the surface charge to voltage transfer function, is accounted for in post-processing. This is accomplished via an Inverse Wien Filter-a technique often applied in image processing-to deconvolve the probe response from the measured data. A commercially available electrostatic probe, the Trek 341B meter with a 3455ET probe, capable of measuring +/-20 kV was compared to the in-house probe that is designed to cover a wider range from +/-35 kV. A resolution better than the simple probe resolution is achieved through the distribution's scanning voltage method and deconvolution. Applying repeated scans, surface charge decay was tracked on various polymer materials to determine the material and environment dependence; materials included were PA6, PTFE, and others. As an example of material dependence, samples charged to 20 kV at 65% humidity experience full charge decay in approximately 45 seconds for PA5 (152 mm dia.), while it took about 100 times longer for PTFE (51 mm dia.) to observe the same decay/redistribution of charge.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2021 IEEE Pulsed Power Conference, PPC 2021
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781665433471
StatePublished - 2021
Event2021 IEEE Pulsed Power Conference, PPC 2021 - Denver, United States
Duration: Dec 12 2021Dec 16 2021

Publication series

NameIEEE International Pulsed Power Conference
ISSN (Print)2158-4915
ISSN (Electronic)2158-4923


Conference2021 IEEE Pulsed Power Conference, PPC 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Charge decay
  • Custom electrostatic probe
  • Dielectric charge accumulation


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