Skip to Main Content
The applied electrical fields required to initiate surface flashover of different types of dielectric material immersed in insulating oil have been investigated, by applying impulses of increasing peak voltage until surface flashover occurred. The behavior of the materials in repeatedly over-volted gaps was also analyzed in terms of breakdown mode (some bulk sample breakdown behaviour was witnessed in this regime), time to breakdown, and breakdown voltage. Cylindrical samples of polypropylene, low-density polyethylene, ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, and Rexolite, were held between two electrodes immersed in insulating oil, and subjected to average applied electrical fields up to 870 kV/cm. Tests were performed in both uniform- and nonuniform- fields, and with different sample topologies. In applied field measurements, polypropylene required the highest levels of average applied field to initiate flashover in all electrode configurations tested, settling at ~600 kV/cm in uniform fields, and ~325 kV/cm in non-uniform fields. In over-volted point-plane gaps, ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene exhibited the longest pre-breakdown delay times. The results will provide comparative data for system designers for the appropriate choice of dielectric materials to act as insulators for high-voltage, pulsed-power machines.