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On the interpretation of some electrical aging and relaxation phenomena in solid dielectrics

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Electrical aging and relaxation in solid dielectrics are phenomena studied for decades but still largely poorly understood. The lack of understanding, or sometimes the misunderstanding, are partly due to inadequate or deficient theories and partly due to wrong interpretation of theories or concepts developed for other materials than dielectrics. In addition, a serious analysis of some of the empirical and approximate relationships often used to interpret polymer relaxations reveals that they are not only limited and restrictive but also that they are based on very dubious assumptions. Dry or wet electrical aging is much more complex and often includes many phenomena with synergetic effects such as thermal aging, electrochemical reactions, space charge effects, etc. In this lecture, we intend to show that some of the theories often cited in the literature are wrong or inappropriate. We show why they cannot describe the phenomena at play and we present some alternatives for future work in the domains of relaxation and electrical aging. The relations between aging, space charges and polarization of polyethylene (PE) under the influence of high electrical fields (above 20 kV/mm) are discussed in light of our electrical aging model. It is our contention that strong charge injection occurs only after nanocavity formation, i.e. above the critical field. The amorphous phase is then significantly deformed and weak van der Waals attraction bonds are broken, leading to another faster aging regime. The possible relation between the nanocavity formation at moderate fields and bonds breaking at higher fields proposed in our aging model and various polarization measurements is discussed. One objective of this paper is to encourage the development of more complex and complete theories specific to dielectrics. Some experimental work needed to achieve this goal is pointed out.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation  (Volume:12 ,  Issue: 6 )