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Pre-breakdown phenomena in pure n-tridecane in liquid and solid state have been investigated experimentally in a needle-plane geometry with impulse voltage. Light emission and charge injection from the high-field electrode were measured. Pre-inception currents in liquid and solid state were recorded and compared to finite element calculations to find plausible high-field conduction models for n-tridecane and cyclohexane. n-tridecane was chosen as a model system for polyethylene based on the known similarities in energy bands for polyethylene and alkanes. The results obtained in pure n-tridecane were compared to similar experiments on cyclohexane and polymer systems. High-field conduction in liquid n-tridecane was found to have a similar field dependence as previously reported for cross linked polyethylene (XLPE). Conduction currents and inception probabilities were found to be almost independent of polarity in frozen and liquid n-tridecane, which is also in line with results obtained for XLPE. Conduction currents were observed at lower voltages in n-tridecane than in cyclohexane, reflecting the lower space charge limited field (SCLF) in n-tridecane. Inception of streamers in liquid cyclohexane occurs at lower voltages than in liquid n-tridecane, and a stronger polarity dependence for all phenomena was observed in cyclohexane compared with n-tridecane. A possible explanation for the differences between n-tridecane and cyclohexane is given based on the field needed for electron avalanches and the SCLF in the two liquids. Inception voltages, light emission and charge injection were found to be similar in liquid and solid n-tridecane. This indicates that the same processes are responsible for inception and propagation of electrical trees in solids and streamers in liquids when the material is stressed by a fast transient. The similarity between the measured properties in solid and liquid phases leads to the conclusion that electrical treeing mainly takes place in the a- orphous regions of the solid phase.