Polyethylene/metal oxide nanocomposites for electrical insulation in future HVDC-cables : probing properties from nano to macro
Abstract: Nanocomposites of polyethylene and metal oxide nanoparticles have shown to be a feasible approachto the next generation of insulation in high voltage direct current cables. In order to reach an operationvoltage of 1 MV new insulation materials with reduced conductivity and increased breakdown strengthas compared to modern low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is needed.In this work polyethylene MgO nanocomposites for electrical insulation has been produced andcharacterized both from an electrical and material perspective. The MgO nanoparticles weresynthesized into polycrystalline nanoparticles with a large specific surface area (167 m2 g–1). Meltprocessing by extrusion resulted in evenly dispersed MgO nanoparticles in LDPE for the silane surfacemodified MgO as compared to the unmodified MgO. All systems showed a reduction in conductivityby up to two orders of magnitude at low loading levels (1–3 wt.%), but where the surface modifiedsystems were able to retain reduced conductivity even at loading levels of 9 wt.%. A maximuminteraction radius to influence the conductivity of the MgO nanoparticles was theoretically determinedto ca. 800 nm. The interaction radius was in turn experimentally observed around Al2O3 nanoparticlesembedded in LDPE using Intermodulation electrostatic force microscopy. By applying a voltage on theAFM-tip charge injection and extraction around the Al2O3 nanoparticles was observed, visualizing theexistence of additional localized energy states on, and around, the nanoparticles. Ptychography wasused to reveal nanometre features in 3D of electrical trees formed under DC-conditions. Thevisualization showed that the electrical tree grows by pre-step voids in front of the propagatingchannels, facilitating further growth, much in analogy to mechanical crack propagation (Griffithconcept). An electromechanical effect was attributed as possible mechanism for the formation of the voids.
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