Surface flashover of dielectrics immersed in super-cooled liquid nitrogen

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

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In a fast coaxial setup, dielectric test sample and electrodes are immersed in super-cooled liquid nitrogen with a temperature near 68 K, and the flashover development process is characterized using fast optical and electrical diagnostics with nanosecond time resolution. The measured breakdown voltage as a function of consecutive flashover shots reaches its peak around the second flashover and declines to a constant value. This voltage is initially about 50% of the volume breakdown voltage in liquid nitrogen and drops to about 20% after the sample has been conditioned. Two materials, Lexan and Alumina, were tested in the system and showed quite similar breakdown voltages, but Alumina exhibited much more severe surface damage. The time resolved electrical diagnostic revealed three phases in the temporal development of the current. Phase (1) is a rapid rise to the mA regime that is probably associated with field emission. Phase (2) contains several pre-breakdown spikes with current amplitudes of less than 5 mA and duration of typically 20 nanoseconds that form and collapse over a period of tens to a couple hundred nanoseconds. Finally, Phase (3), is characterized by a rapid ionization across the surface with a current rise that covers 4 orders of magnitude in a few nanoseconds.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
StatePublished - 1999
Event12th IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference - Monterey, CA, USA
Duration: Jun 27 1999Jun 30 1999


Conference12th IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference
CityMonterey, CA, USA


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