Surface discharge switch design: The critical factor

T. G. Engel, M. Kristiansen, M. Baker, L. L. Hatfield

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The authors report which dielectric properties are critical to designing a long-life surface discharge switch (SDS). Theory is correlated with experiment by evaluating the performance of a large group of polymeric and ceramic dielectrics. These dielectrics were tested in a single-channel, self-commutating SDS operating at approximately 35 kV and approximately 300 kA (oscillatory discharge) with a pulse length of approximately 20 μs (1/4 period approximately 2 μs). The performance of a dielectric is characterized by its shot-to-shot breakdown voltage and by its mass erosion. Theoretically, the voltage holdoff degradation resistance and the arc melting/erosion resistance of a dielectric can be qualitatively predicted from its 'formativity' and its 'impulsivity,' respectively. The formativity and impulsivity are figures of merit calculated from the known thermophysical properties of the dielectric. The effects produced in dielectric performance by choice of electrode material (e.g., molybdenum, graphite, and copper-tungsten) and discharge repetition rate are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-264
Number of pages5
JournalIEEE Conference Record of Power Modulator Symposium
StatePublished - Jun 1990
Event1990 Nineteenth Power Modulator Symposium - San Diego, CA, USA
Duration: Jun 26 1990Jun 28 1990


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