Understanding and Improving High Voltage Vacuum Insulators for Microsecond Pulses

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High voltage insulation is one of the main areas of pulsed power research and development, and dielectric breakdown is usually the limiting factor in attaining the highest possible performance in pulsed power devices. For many applications the delivery of pulsed power into a vacuum region is the most critical aspect of operation. The surface of an insulator exposed to vacuum can fail electrically at an applied field more than an order or magnitude below the bulk dielectric strength of the insulator. This mode of breakdown, called surface flashover, imposes serious limitations on the power flow into a vacuum region. This ... continued below

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PDF-file: 64 pages; size: 3.8 Mbytes

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Javedani, J B; Goerz, D A; Houck, T L; Lauer, E J; Speer, R D; Tully, L K et al. March 5, 2007.

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High voltage insulation is one of the main areas of pulsed power research and development, and dielectric breakdown is usually the limiting factor in attaining the highest possible performance in pulsed power devices. For many applications the delivery of pulsed power into a vacuum region is the most critical aspect of operation. The surface of an insulator exposed to vacuum can fail electrically at an applied field more than an order or magnitude below the bulk dielectric strength of the insulator. This mode of breakdown, called surface flashover, imposes serious limitations on the power flow into a vacuum region. This is especially troublesome for applications where high voltage conditioning of the insulator and electrodes is not practical and for applications where relatively long pulses, on the order of several microseconds, are required. The goal of this project is to establish a sound fundamental understanding of the mechanisms that lead to surface flashover, and then evaluate the most promising techniques to improve vacuum insulators and enable high voltage operation at stress levels near the intrinsic bulk breakdown limits of the material. The approach we proposed and followed was to develop this understanding through a combination of theoretical and computation methods coupled with experiments to validate and quantify expected behaviors. In this report we summarize our modeling and simulation efforts, theoretical studies, and experimental investigations. The computational work began by exploring the limits of commercially available codes and demonstrating methods to examine field enhancements and defect mechanisms at microscopic levels. Plasma simulations with particle codes used in conjunction with circuit models of the experimental apparatus enabled comparisons with experimental measurements. The large scale plasma (LSP) particle-in-cell (PIC) code was run on multiprocessor platforms and used to simulate expanding plasma conditions in vacuum gap regions. Algorithms were incorporated into LSP to handle secondary electron emission from dielectric materials to enable detailed simulations of flashover phenomenon. Theoretical studies were focused on explaining a possible mechanism for anode initiated surface flashover that involves an electron avalanche process starting near the anode, not a mechanism involving bulk dielectric breakdown. Experiments were performed in Engineering's Pulsed Power Lab using an available 100-kV, 10-{micro}s pulse generator and vacuum chamber. The initial experiments were done with polyethylene insulator material in the shape of a truncated cone cut at +45{sup o} angle between flat electrodes with a gap of 1.0 cm. The insulator was sized so there were no flashovers or breakdowns under nominal operating conditions. Insulator flashover or gap closure was induced by introducing a plasma source, a tuft of velvet, in proximity to the insulator or electrode.

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PDF-file: 64 pages; size: 3.8 Mbytes

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  • Report No.: UCRL-TR-228713
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • DOI: 10.2172/902244 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 902244
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc888349

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • March 5, 2007

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Dec. 9, 2016, 7:33 p.m.

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Javedani, J B; Goerz, D A; Houck, T L; Lauer, E J; Speer, R D; Tully, L K et al. Understanding and Improving High Voltage Vacuum Insulators for Microsecond Pulses, report, March 5, 2007; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc888349/: accessed December 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.