Partial discharge detection for characterizing cable insulation under low and medium vacuum conditions

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Design of cables for operation in a low pressure environment is challenging, when applications also demand lightweight and flexibility, and material choice is restricted. The operating pressures in combination with relevant distances, can be situated near gas breakdown and cause partial discharges, making long-term damage conceivable. An experimental setup is developed, based on partial discharge detection in a vacuum system, to characterize the partial discharge inception voltage of three coaxial cable designs in an argon and nitrogen environment at controllable pressure. In order to cope with outgassing behavior, a lumped element model is presented to simulate the internal pressure distribution along the cable as a function of settling time. Microscopic cross sections of the cables are analysed with electrostatic voltage simulations. Using scaled Paschen curves, expected partial discharge inception is determined and compared with measurements. Quantifying cable performance, in terms of minimum PD inception voltage and pressure, in relation to its design is feasible, but also deviations occur which are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-315
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Cable insulation
  • gas insulation
  • partial discharge inception voltage
  • partial discharges
  • Paschen curve
  • vacuum insulation


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