Surface flashover in liquid nitrogen

M. Butcher, A. Neuber, H. Krompholz, L. L. Hatfield

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The use of cryogenic voltage components to achieve higher energy densities is limited by virtually unknown insulator characteristics for cryogenic conditions. Using a fast coaxial setup, the flashover phenomena of dielectric test samples (Lexan, Alumina) immersed in liquid nitrogen are measured with optical and electrical diagnostics with nanosecond time resolution. The flashover voltage reaches a maximum of 30 kV for a 1.75 mm gap after 3 shots, and averages to about 10 kV after conditioning. Three phases in the discharge development can be distinguished: Phase 1 is a rapid current rise to the mA-regime, with several current spikes with amplitudes of less than 5 mA and durations of typically 20 ns. This phase lasts up to several 100 ns. Phase 2 is characterized by a rapid ionization with a current rise to the impedance limited value of several 100 A of phase 3 in a few nanoseconds. Waveforms of the luminosity follow the ones of the current in general. The physical mechanisms leading to this development, and the difference to the flashover phenomena in vacuum, are discussed qualitatively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)654-657
Number of pages4
JournalConference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena (CEIDP), Annual Report
StatePublished - 1999
EventProceedings of the 1999 68th Annual Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena (1999 CEIDP) - Austin, TX, USA
Duration: Oct 17 1999Oct 20 1999


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