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ZEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation

Vol. 10, No. 3; June 2003

539

Assessment of Insulation Condition of Generator Stator


Bars Based on Velocity of Ultrasonic Waves
Yanpeng Hao, Hengkun Xie, Guoli Wang
State Key Laboratoly of Electrical Insulation for Power Equipment
Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi" 710049. P. R. China

and

Zhidong Jia

HV Laboratoly, Electrical Engineering Department.


Tsinghua Universiry, Beijing 100084, P. R. China

ABSTRACT
The velocity of ultrasonic waves, which were launched using the pulse-echo method
and propagated in a stator insulation,, was measured to assess the insulation condition of the stator bars. A statistical minimum velocity (Vmin)and a statistical average velocity Way)were computed for a new and three sets of stator bars which
were in operation for 16, 18 and 23 years. After velocity measurements,' several
conventional electrical parameters such a s dissipation factor, capacitance, and
partial discharge were measured, and microscopic examinations of dissected insulation of tested b a r s were examined with a scanning electron microscope and a n
optical microscope. Experimental results showed that Vmi, and V,, decreased and
more microscopic defects were formed in the insulation with increasing operating
time of the stator bar. For the three sets of aged stator bars, the insulation conditions based on Vmi, and V,, were consistent with those assessed by measuring electrical diagnostic parameters. Therefore, Vmi, and V,, were used to assess the insulation condition of large generators. The measurement of ultrasonic waves may offer a broad prospect for stator insulation diagnosis.

Index Terms
Stator bars insulation, insulation diagnostics, ultrasonic, dissipation factor, partial discharges, capacitance, scanning electron microscope.

1 INTRODUCTION

T.

H E stator insulation of large generators is subjected


simultaneously to electrical, thermal, mechanical,
thermal-cycling and environmental stresse3 in service. The
multiple stresses cause gradual aging of insulation, which
lead to insulation failure. Assessment of the insulation
condition or, even better, of the remaining life of the stator bars after a period of service is of significance for the
reliable operation of generators.
During the last two decades, many researchers did extensive work to assess the remaining life of the stator insulation of large generators. But the research findings among
these researchers were not consistent. Tsukui et al [1,2]
measured conventional electrical parameters and breakdown strength of stator bars during accelerated aging in
the laboratoly and reported a good correlation between
various combinations of electrical parameters and breakdown strength, which was then proposed as a measure of
the remaining life. However; Nelson et al [31 investigated

Monuscnp receiued on I 1 October 2002, in fintiifom I4 March 2002

the long-term accelerated aging of stator bars and found


that many of the conventional electrical parameters did
not provide useful and reproducible indications for evaluating machines insulation. In addition, Stone et a1 [41 and
K. Gupta et al [ 5 ] measured conventional electrical parameters and breakdown voltage on practical stator bars
of generators and motors, and reported that the results
did not show any correlation between the electrical parameters and the breakdown voltage. They reported that
conventional electrical parameters could be specific to a
certain insulation system or testing condition, and may
only be useful to indicate the trend in insulation aging.
Recently, several advanced characteristic parameters
such as dynamic stagnation voltage of partial discharges
[6],ultra-wideband frequency characteristics of partial discharges [7-9], statistical parameters of discharge pulse
phase distribution [9-121, optical diagnosis parameter
( A A R ) 1131 and acoustic characteristics [9,14-161 were
used to assess aging extent of large generator insulation.
Among these parameters, acoustic characteristics have
gained more recognition. Acoustic characteristics of stator
insulation are measured with several methods. The first

1070-9878/1/$17.00 0 2003 IEEE

540

Y. Ha0 et al.: Assessment of Insulation Condition on Velocity of Ultrasonic Waves

method is the tap test, i.e. tapping on a stator bar and


quantifying the acoustic response of the stator insulation
with detailed spectrum analysis. This is sensitive to voids,
delamination and completeness of resin cure in insulation
[141. The second method is to detect the acoustic waves
emitted from partial discharges with acoustic emission
techniques. This method allows identification of discharge
locations within an error range of 2 cm, based on the
readings of two transducers positioned on a stator bar 1151.
The third method is the ultrasonic testing technique, in
which optimally launching ultrasonic transverse waves into
a stator bar, adopting the copper strands as a waveguide
and using the amplitude of the received waves as an index
of insulation degradation. This method could detect delamination of insulation from copper strands [161.
The acoustic methods mentioned above have been employed to detect or locate defects in stator insulation.
However, there are few papers reporting on the assessment of the aging extent of stator insulation with ultrasonic techniques. In this paper, the velocity of the ultrasonic waves, which were launched using the pulse-echo
method and propagated in the stator insulation, was used
t o assess the insulation condition of the stator bars. Conventional electrical diagnostic tests and microscopic examinations with scanning electron microscope (SEMI and
optical microscope were also conducted. The experimental results demonstrated the viability of the ultrasonic
technique for assessment of insulation condition of the
stator of a generator.

2 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
2.1 INSULATION AGING
The stator insulation of large generators generally consists of epoxy-mica insulation. The manufacturing process
of this insulation may he described briefly as follows.
Firstly, glass-fiber reinforced mica tape is wound around
copper strands to a desired thickness, and numerous layers of mica tape make the insulation with layered structure. Then, the layered insulation as well as the copper
conductor is vacuum-impregnated with epoxy resin. After
impregnation and cure, the mica tape layers and the epoxy
resin are normally hounded, and a rigid and compact insulation is formed. At the manufacturing stage, the insulation is prone to producing gas-filled voids. The voids often
occur between layers and/or at the resin-copper interface.
More voids occur due to the deterioration of the adhesive
strength of the epoxy resin in the insulation under operating stresses. During a long-term aging process, some of
these voids are enlarged gradually. In severely aged insulation, delamination between layers, delamination of insulation from copper strand and even cracks through layers
appear. The thermal, electrical and mechanical stresses
concentrate on these microscopic defects, accelerating the
aging of the whole insulation material.

2.2 PROPAGATION OF ULTRASONIC


WAVES IN STATOR INSULATION
As is well known, the velocity and the propagation path
of ultrasonic waves depend strongly on the microscopic
structure of the tested material. The microscopic structure of the stator insulation will change during aging, and
microscopic defects will appear. We suggest that the velocity of the ultrasonic waves traveling through the stator
insulation may he an indicator of the insulation aging extent.
When advancing waves in a material encounter another
material with different acoustic impedance, they are reflected at the interface between these two materials. If an
ultrasonic transducer is coupled to the surface of a stator
bar, three types of reflection may occur, as shown in Figure 1, due to different acoustic impedances of the transducer, insulation, copper and gas. The transducer and the
stator insulation will form a transducer-insulation interface ( I ) . When the transmitted wave ( T ) from piezoelectric crystal plate of ultrasonic transducer encounters interface I , the first type of reflection and a refraction occur.
A reflected wave ( F ) and a refracted wave ( T ' ) are produced. The wave F will propagate back and he received
by the transmitting transducer. The wave T' will propagate in the insulation. There will he two propagation paths
for the wave T' in the insulation. One is the wave T' that
encounters an insulation-copper interface (11) after propagating through the whole insulation. The second type of
reflection occurs at the interface 11, and a reflected wave
( B ) is introduced. The wave B propagates back through
the whole insulation and is received ultimately by the
transmitting transducer. The other is the wave T' that encounters an insulation-gas interface (111) resulted from a
gas-filled defect, and is reflected if the thickness of the
defect is larger than the smallest detectable thickness Os,
which is given by equation (1). The reflection of the wave
T' at the interface I11 is the third type of reflection, and a
reflected wave (D)is introduced. Similar to wave E , the
wave D propagates back through the insulation above the

cable
111

Figure 1. Graphical representation of a propagation path of ultrasonic waves in a stator bar.

IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation

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Vol. 10, No. 3; June 2003

541

In fact, the propagation time I may be expressed by


equation (3)
(3)

where S, and y are the propagation distance and velocity


of the ultrasonic waves in the solid insulation material,
are the propagation distance and
respectively, S, and
velocity of ultrasonic waves in the gas within the defects,
respectively, which are in propagation path. V, is a constant. The differential equation of (3) is (4).

(4)

Figure 2. Typical ultrasonic A-scan results from a stator bar.

defect and is received ultimately by the transmitting transducer.


A V
D =-=I
2 2f
where, A is the wavelength of the ultrasonic waves propagated in the insulation, f is the ultrasonic frequency, and
V is the velocity of the ultrasonic waves propagated in
insulation.
For 0.8 MHz ultrasonic waves propagated in stator insulation, the smallest detectable thickness, Ds,is about
1.66 mm. Some microscopic defects formed during insulation aging are much smaller than 1.66 mm, and too small
to cause reflection of ultrasonic waves. The ultrasonic
waves are always propagated through the whole insulation
and reflected at the insulation-copper interface II. The
ultrasonic waves with such propagation path can be used
to calculate the ultrasonic velocity, which is described as
follows.

2.3 ULTRASONIC VELOCITY


The propagation time of the waves F and B received by
the transducer may be measured with an oscilloscope. A
typical result of ultrasonic waves detected with an oscilloscope is shown in Figure 2. From Figure 1 it is clear that
the difference in the propagation distance between waves
B and F is twice the thickness of the ground wall insulation. So, the velocity V of the ultrasonic waves propagated
in the insulation is calculated.according to equation (2)

where, d is the nominal thickness of the ground wall insulation, T, and TB are the propagation time of wave F and
wave B respectively, t = TB1T, is the propagation time
of the ultrasonic waves through twice the thickness of
ground wall insulation. The thickness of the ground wall
insulation may slightly increase due to the insulation expansion in the aging process, so d in the equation ( 2 )
stands for nominal thickness.

Provided that the gas in the insulation is essentially atmospheric, Vz in equation (4) is equal to the velocity of
the ultrasonic wave in air, 331.45 m/s. Then, l/V, = 3.02
x10-3 s/m. The ultrasonic velocity
is not constant
during insulation aging, due to the changing microscopic
structure of the insulation material. A value of 2.4X 103
m/s may be adopted for y in equation (4). Thus, both
1/y and l/y2 are calculated to be 1 / ~ . = 4 . 1 7 X 1 0 - 4
s/m, l/y2= 1.74X lo- s/m. It is obvious that 1/y >>
l/y2 and l/Vz >-> 1/y2. So, equation (5) may be substituted for equation (4).
dS,
dr=-+-

dS,

V V ,

Then, equation (6) may be obtained


ASi

AS

A t = - + A

v,

From equation (2)


(7)
where, to is the propagation time in new stator insulation.
and I,, + At is the propagation time in aged stator insulation.
Equation (6) indicates that the change of propagation
time in the insulation At results from a decrease in the
thickness of the solid insulation material (AS;) due to the
gradual degradation of the epoxy resin in the insulation.
and an increase in the equivalent thickness of the gas in
the defects in the propagation path (AS,). AS,, which is
due to the expansion of insulation and the.formation of
internal microscopic defects under thermal, electrical and
mechanical stresses, is more than AS,. That is to say, the
microscopic defects in insulation mainly cause an increase
in the propagation time t , and a decrease in the ultrasonic
velocity according to equation (7). Therefore the ultrasonic velocity may be, related to insulation aging, which
results from internal microscopic structure changes of the
stator insulation. It should be pointed out that the ultra-

Y. Ha0 et al.: hsessment of Insulation Condition on Veloci@of Ultrasonic Waves

542

sonic velocity might not he used to predict other failure


processes such as electrical tracking due to pollution or
coil abrasion in the slot due to loose windings.

3 EXPERIMENTAL
3.1 SPECIMENS
The tested stator bars were classed into four sets according to the operating time. Set I was cut from a new
stator bar, which was a standby stator bar for a watercooled turbo-generator (300 MW, 18 kV), and was 3 m in
length. The new stator bar had not been subjected to any
operating stresses and was used as a reference bar for test
comparison purposes. Sets 11, 111 and IV had been in service for 16, 18 and 23 years, respectively in three watercooled turbo-generators (300 MW, 18 kV), that were produced by the same manufacturer and were in base operation. Sets 11, I11 and IV were cut into 3 m, 3 m, and 6 m in
lengths, respectively when they were taken from the generators. Sets 11, 111 and IV have 3, 12 and 6 stator bars,
respectively. All the stator bar insulation were made of
epoxy-mica composite insulation. The nominal thickness
of the ground wall insulation was 5.5 mm. The winding
temperature in selvice was about 75 C.

3.2 ULTRASONIC VELOCITY


MEASUREMENTS
There are a variety of transmission methods for ultrasonic applications. The pulse-echo method, as a basic one,
is used in many applications, including this research. A
straight beam transducer is placed on the surface of the
tested specimen using direct contact via a coupler. Ultrasonic longitudinal waves :ire launched into the specimen,
reflected from the hack surface of specimen, and received

Figure 3. Ultrasonic pulse-echo testing system.

\-I

Figure 4. Typical ultrasonic A-scan results from stator bare for a new and after different years in service. a, new; b, 16 years; c, 1 R years; d, 23
years.

IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation

Vol. 10, No. 3; June 2003

by the transmitting transducer on the front surface. The


material of specimen and internal defects determine the
characteristics of the reflected waves.
There are many scanning techniques for ultrasonic testing to display the data of the reflected waves, such as Ascan, B-scan and C-scan. An A-scan as a basis of other
display modes presents a one-dimension view of ultrasonic waves. Figure 2 is a typical ultrasonic A-scan result.
The horizontal axis in the ultrasonic A-scan result represents the propagation time of ultrasonic waves and the
vertical axis represents the amplitude that is proportional
to the sound intensity of the ultrasonic waves.
An ultrasonic testing system with pulse-echo transmission method and A-scan display mode was developed. As
shown in Figure 3, this system was comprised of the following four components.
1. An ultrasonic signal generator and echo acquisition
instrument called CTS-26.
2. A straight beam transducer both transmitting and receiving ultrasonic beam,
3. A TDS-220 oscilloscope to display ultrasonic A-scan
data.
4. A computer with specific software for ultrasonic testing.
The authors investigated the optimal frequency for stator insulation by using the ultrasonic pulse-echo testing
system [171. The transducer used here was an ultrasonic
straight beam transducer having 0.8 MHz and 15 mm in
diameter. No pretreatment was made to any stator bar.
Vaseline was used as a coupler between transducer and
stator insulation to reduce ultrasonic attenuation.
The velocity of ultrasonic waves propagated in the insulation of tested stator bars was calculated with equation
(2). In order to assure satisfying accuracy, the ultrasonic
velocity in the insulation of each stator bar was measured
on N ( > 10) different monitoring points at the stator bar
surface. Then, a statistical minimal velocity (V,J and a
statistical average velocity
were computed according
to equations (8) and (91, respectively.

diagnostic tests, all stator bars were dried at 100 "C for 24
h. A QS-27 Schering bridge was used for dissipatlon factor and capacitance measurements, and a TE571 digital
PD analyzer manufactured by Haefely Trench Corporation was used for partial discharge measurements. The
partial discharge behavior of each stator bar was measured over a duration of 2 nun.
The electrical diagnostic parameters for this experiment
included the dissipation factor tip-up (Atan6 = tanSE AC C,-Co
tan So), the change of capacitance (=
), the
C"
CO
maximum discharge magnitude (9") and the mean discharge magnitude (q,,,,) at operating voltage (10 kV).
tanSE and C, are the dissipation factor and the capacitance at operating voltage, respectively, tan&, and COare
the dissipation factor and the capacitance at 0.2 times the
operating voltage (2 kV) respectively.
After the electrical diagnostic tests, the stator insulation was dissected carefully from-one part of the tested
~

2.4

2 2.2j
1

.-.,

'E

2.01
1.6

2.6

(9)

3.3 ELECTRICAL DIAGNOSTIC TESTS


In addition to the measurements of ultrasonic velocity,
conventional electrical diagnostic tests were performed on
tested stator bars. The electrical diagnostic tests included
the dissipation factor, capacitance and partial discharge
measurements. For the electrical diagnostic tests, all stator bars were cut into several sections 60 cm in length,
and treated for corona-suppression. Prior to the electrical

.18

*
.

.23

(8)

(8)

Where, V, was the measured velocity at n (n = I, 2, 3...N)


monitoring point.

16

operating time (Y)

K" = cI V,/N

...
..
I..

1.8

2.8
Vmi,=min(V,, V2. V3,,,Vn,,.VN]

543

z2.1
d

>g

2.2

:;

;.
A

2.0

,~

.-.

1.8

16
18
operating time (Y)
(b)

23

Figure 5. Plots against operating time. a, V , , , ; b, V,,

Y. Ha0 et al.: Assessment of Insulation Condition on Velocity of Ultrasonic Waves

544

stator bars with a low-velocity diamond saw, and microscopic examinations with scanning electron microscope
(SEM) and optical microscope were performed.

4 RESULTS AND ANALYSIS


4.1 RESULTS OF ULTRASONIC VELOCITY
MEASUREMENTS
Typical ultrasonic A-scan results detected by using ultrasonic pulse-echo testing system from four sets of stator
bars are shown in Figures 4a to 4d, in which T is the
transmitted wave and F and B are the reflected waves at
the transducer-insulation interface and the insulationcopper interface, respectively. The time interval between
F and E , which are represented by dX in Figure 4, obviously increased with operation time of the stator bars. The
intervals (dX) for the new stator bar and the stator bars
that had been in service for 16, 18 and 23 years, were 4.14,
5.17, 5.34 and 5.95 ps, respectively. Based on the interval,
the ultrasonic velocity in the stator insulation could be
computed according to equation (2). According to equations (8) and (91, a statistical minimal Vmi, and a statistical
average V,, values could be computed for each tested stator bar. The plots of V , ; , and V,, of the tested stator bars
4

against service time are shown in Figures 5a and 5b respectively.


From Figure 5a it is clear that V,,, decreased with operating time of insulation, which is consistent with the
theoretical analysis based on equation (7).
It was noted that V,," values in the Same set of stator
bars scattered in a small range, and the scattered range
increased slightly with insulation operating time. The scatter of V,,, values might be due to differences in operating condition of the stator bars, which were taken from
different slots of the generator.
The plot of V,, against operting time was similar, as
shown in Figure 5b.

4.2 RESULTS OF ELECTRICAL


DIAGNOSTIC TESTS
The Atan6, AC/C,, qmrr, and qmerndata of the three
sets of the aged stator bars are shown in Figures 6a to 6d.
From Figure 6 it can he seen that Atan6, AC/C,, q,,,, or
qmranshow an increasing trend with operating time of the
stator bar. The data of a same set of the stator bars scattered in a range, and the scattered range increased with
operating time of the stator bar. It should be pointed out

71
6

c
m

41

.'

I
~

2L
1

k*

0
16

18

23

16

operating time (Y)

23

operating lime (Y)

(a)

(b)

6l

1.o

.1

0'

18

16

18

16

23

18

operating time (Y)

operating time (V)

(C)
AC
(d)
Figure 6. Plots against operating timc. a, Atan6; b, -; c, qmax;d, qmern

CL.

23

IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation

Vol. IO, No. 3; June 2003

that the insulation of the two stator bars that were in service for 23 years failed at the rated voltage (18 kV) during
the measurements of Atan6, AC/C,. Dissecting the insulation of two failed bars, revealed that macroscopic ruptures existed among the insulation layers.

nations of the dissected stator insulation were examined


with SEM and optical microscopes. The SEM photographs of the stator insulation with different aging extent are shown in Figures 7 and 8, using magnifications of
50 and 2000, respectively. The new insulation shown in
Figure 7a was a very compact material. However, a little
delamination appeared in the middle-aged insulation
shown in Figure 7b. The severe-aged insulation shown in

4.3 MICROSCOPIC EXAMINATIONS


After the nondestructive diagnostic tests, some of the
tested stator bars were dissected. The microscoDic exami-

..

Figure 7. SEM photographs. a, new statofinsulation; h, middle-aged


Stator insulation; c, severe-aged stator insulation. Magnification, 50.

545

..

Figure 8. SEM'photogqhs,a, new stator insulation; h, middle-aged


stator insulation] c, severe-aged stator insulation. Magnification, 2000.

Y. Ha0 et al.: Assessment ofznsulation Condition on VelociQ of Ultrasonic Waves

546

oid

rameters, as shown in Figures 5 and 6, it is obvious that


the scatter of the ultrasonic velocity is much smaller than
that of the electrical diagnostic data. In addition, the measurements of V,,, and V,, are nondestructive, and do not
suffer from environmental interference. Therefore, V,,,
and
are more suitable for assessment of the insulation
condition of stator bars.

5 CONCLUSIONS

delamination
Figure 0. Photograph of microscopic defects in stator insulation
taken with an optical microscope, Magnification, 150.

Figure 7c had already been an obviously layered material


due to the worse adhesive intensity of epoxy resin in insulation. Figures 8a to 8c exhibited changes of microscopic
structure of stator insulation in the process of insulation
aging. For the new insulation shown in Figure Sa, epoxy
resin bonded mica powders and glass fibers firmly. But for
the severe-aged insulation shown in Figure SC, little epoxy
resin was seen, glass fibers were naked, and void existed
between glass fibers. More and more voids appeared in
the insulation, and delamination was formed due to development of voids during the aging process. Figure 9 is a
photograph taken with an optical microscope, indicating
that voids and delamination in insulation had been
formed.

4.4 ANALYSIS
The microscopic examinations mentioned above revealed that more and more microscopic defects such as
voids and delamination were formed in the process of insulation aging. These defects could result in changes in
the ultrasonic velocity and the electrical diagnostic parameters.
According to equation (7), the ultrasonic velocity decreases as the dimension of the defects is enlarged. In the
aging process of stator bar insulation, voids are formed
and enlarged continually, therefore VmLnand V, decrease
with increasing operating time of the stator bar.
As is well known, the electrical diagnostic parameters
such as the AtanS, the AC/C,, the q,, and the q,,,,
increase with the development of microscopic defects in
insulation. So the AtanS, the AC/C,, the qmaXand the
q,,,, increase as the operating time of the stator bar extends.
Based on the experimental results presented here, it can
be seen that both the ultrasonic velocity and the electrical
diagnostic parameters depend on the operating time of
the stator bar. However, comparing the changes of ultrasonic velocity with those of the electrical diagnostic pa-

Based on the experimental results, the following conclusions can be drawn


1. More microscopic defects are formed in the process
of insulation aging.
2. The formation and development of the microscopic
defects result in a decrease in the ultrasonic velocity and
the degradation of dielectric properties as the operating
time of the stator insulation increases. Therefore, ultrasonic velocity and electrical diagnostic parameters can be
adopted to assess the aging extent of stator insulation.
3. The statistical minimum velocity V , < ,and the statistical average velocity E,are more suitable for assessment
of insulation condition of large generators.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support by National Natural Science Foundation of P. R. China for part
of research (the project No. 59837260).

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Vol. 10, No. 3; June 2003

547

the MSc. degree in electrical engineering


from Xi'an Jiaotong University, China in
1964. From 1982 to 1984 he worked as a
Visiting Scholar at the University of Manitoba, Canada. He was also a Visiting Prafessor at the University of Hanover, Germany.
Now he is a Professor at Xi'an Jiaotong University, the director of the State Key Laboratory of Electrical Insulation for Power Equipment, a member of the
expert group of the National Natural Science Foundation Committee of China, and a member of the expert group for the Masters
and Doctoral Degrees Committee of the State Council of China.
His research work covers partial discharges. electrical insulation
systems for power equipment, on-line monitoring, and insulation
diagnosis.

Guoli Wang was born in Shandong Province,


China in 1975. He received the MSc. and
Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from
Xi'an Jiaotong University, China in 1998 and
2003, respectively. His research work covers
partial discharges and on-line monitoring
technique.

~I

Yanpeng Hao was born in Habei Province,


China in 1974. She received the MSc. and
Ph.D degrees in electrical engineering from
Xi'an Jiaotong University, China in 1998 and
2003, respectively. Her research work covers
ultrasonic diagnostics of insulation material,
generator insulation diagnostics, Multi-stress
aging, and dynamic mechanical analysis of
insulation material.

Zhidong Jia was born in Taiyuan. China on


4 October 1966. He received the B.S. and
Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from
Xi'an Jiaotong University, China in 1987 and
2W1, respectively. He received the M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Tsinghua
University in 1992. Now he works as a postdoctoral fellow in Tsinghua University. His
research work covers insulation diagnosis
and external insulation.