Champion, J.V. and Dodd, Stephen J.
Simulation of partial discharges in conducting and non-conducting electrical tree structures.
Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 34, (8), . (doi:10.1088/0022-3727/34/8/314).
Electrical treeing is of interest to the electrical generation, transmission and distribution industries as it is one of the causes of insulation failure in electrical machines, switchgear and transformer bushings. Previous experimental investigations of electrical treeing in epoxy resins have found evidence that the tree structures formed were either electrically conducting or non-conducting, depending on whether the epoxy resin was in a flexible state (above its glass transition temperature) or in the glassy state (below its glass transition temperature). In this paper we extend an existing model, of partial discharges within an arbitrarily defined non-conducting electrical tree structure, to the case of electrical conducting trees. With the inclusion of tree channel conductivity, the partial discharge model could simulate successfully the experimentally observed partial discharge activity occurring in trees grown in both the flexible and glassy epoxy resins. This modelling highlights a fundamental difference in the mechanism of electrical tree growth in flexible and glassy epoxy resins. The much lower resistivities of the tree channels grown in the glassy epoxy resins may be due to conducting decomposition (carbonized) products condensing on the side walls of the existing channels, whereas, in the case of non-conducting tree channels, subsequent discharges within the main branches lead to side-wall erosion and a consequent widening of the tubules. The differing electrical characteristics of the tree tubules also have consequences for the development of diagnostic tools for the early detection of pre-breakdown phenomena.
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