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THERMAL ENDURANCE OF HIGH TEMPERATURE FIBER REINFORCED CELLULOSE INSULATION

S J Ferrito and R L Stegehuis

Cooper Power Systems, USA

INTRODUCTION

Advancements have been made in the thermal


endurance of cellulose-based insulating papers by
reinforcing the cellulose matrix with a high temperature
synthetic fiber. This new insulating material is made
by adding synthetic fibers to the cellulose pulp along
with a binder material that bonds the synthetic fiber
into the cellulose matrix. The high temperature fibers
form a reinforcing backbone that gives the paper
mechanical integrity, even after the cellulose
component has thermally degraded. This new material
has been used to improve the thermal durability of
liquid-filled transformers.

BACKGROUND

Cellulose-based insulating materials, commonly called


kraft papers, have been widely used in oil-filled
electrical distribution equipment since the early 1900s.
Despite some of the shortcomings of cellulose, kraft
paper continues to be the insulation of choice in
virtually all oil-filled transformers because of its low
cost and reasonably good performance. Unfortunately,
the cellulose polymer is subject to thermal degradation
and vulnerable to oxidative and hydrolytic attack,
Fabre and Pichon (1). Thus, electrical equipment
insulated with kraft paper must be designed and
operated such that insulation temperatures remain
relatively low.
For example, for non-upgraded
electrical kraft papers used in transformers, IEEE
C57.91 Annex D suggests a maximum continuous
operating temperature of 95C (2), and IEC 354
suggests 98C (3).
Above those temperatures,
accelerated aging occurs, resulting in a loss of
insulation life.
The most notable recent improvement to kraft paper
occurred in the late 1950s, when thermally upgraded
kraft paper was introduced. The thermal upgrading
process involves chemically treating the paper with a
nitrogen-based compound such as dicyandiamide, Ford
et al (4). These chemical treatments stabilize the
hydroxyl radicals present on the cellulose molecule,
thereby reducing the tendency toward hydrolysis. This
thermal upgrading process raises the continuous
operating temperature suggested by IEEE C57.91 from
95C to 110C (2).

Further increases in operating temperatures have been


pursued, primarily through the use of synthetic
materials. Currently, synthetic papers and films are
available that can be operated at temperatures of 220C
and higher. However, they have a cost factor in the
range of 10 to 50 times the cost of kraft, so they are not
economical in most liquid-filled transformer
applications. Synthetic materials such as aramid papers
have found commercial use only in certain specialty
applications, such as mobile and traction transformers.
In these cases, extreme size and weight constraints
make the use of higher operating temperatures
essential. So-called hybrid insulation systems have
also been used, where high temperature synthetics are
used in some parts of the device and kraft paper in
other parts, McNutt et al (5). This approach has been
applied to large power transformers, for example,
where sizeable temperature gradients exist between the
active and inactive components. Temperature gradients
in distribution size equipment, for example, are
typically too small for this approach to be practical.

CELLULOSE VERSUS SYNTHETICS

The commercial use of cellulose papers as electrical


insulation for more than 100 years is testimony to its
merits. Indeed, despite improved resistance to thermal
degradation, many of the synthetic papers and films
that are commercially available have one or more
shortcomings in comparison to kraft. For example,
some have high dielectric constants, increasing the
electric field stress in other areas of the insulation
structure. Some are difficult (or impossible) to
impregnate with dielectric fluids, or may entrap air
during oil filling. Some lack stiffness when compared
with kraft paper of the same thickness, which can be a
disadvantage in layer-type windings. Some soften at
the high temperatures that occur during short-term
loading beyond nameplate rating.
By contrast, kraft paper has a favorable dielectric
constant, readily impregnates, and has desirable
mechanical properties when it is new (tensile, tear,
stiffness, etc.) Brief exposure to high temperatures
takes a cumulative toll on insulation life, but generally
has no immediate consequences. Kraft retains its
dielectric properties very well, even after severe
thermal aging, as long as it remains intact and

impregnated with fluid. Undisturbed, a device may


continue to function well beyond the theoretical end of
insulation life. However, the loss of mechanical
strength due to thermal aging leaves cellulose
insulation susceptible to mechanical failure. For
example, the forces generated during a fault current
may cause a physical break in the degraded insulation,
precipitating a dielectric breakdown. To improve its
long-term thermal aging performance, the concept was
developed to reinforce kraft paper with a high
temperature synthetic fiber.

SYNTHETIC FIBER EXPERIMENTS

A synthetic fiber added alone to a cellulose matrix


would actually destroy some of the papers mechanical
properties. This happens because the synthetic fibers
interfere with the hydrogen bonding that takes place
between the cellulose fibers. For this reason, a binder
material must be incorporated into the material to
provide bonding between the cellulose and synthetic
fibers.
To determine the best types and combinations of
binders and synthetic fibers for this application,
laboratory hand sheets were fabricated and tested.
Mixtures of cellulose pulp with numerous fiber and
binder combinations were evaluated in order to
determine the optimum blend of materials. Hand
sheets made from 100 percent cellulose pulp were used
as the experimental control. Photo 1 and photo 2 show
microscopic views of the all-kraft and the synthetic
fiber reinforced kraft papers, respectively.

Photo 1: Kraft handsheet (50X)

Photo 2: Synthetic fiber reinforced handsheet (50X)

THERMAL AGING TESTS

The hand sheets were aged in mineral oil at 150C for


100, 250, and 500 hours. The handsheet thermal aging
results were used to screen potential fiber and binder
candidates. The materials and conditions that resulted
in the best hand sheets were then tried on a productionscale papermaking machine to obtain a commercial
quality paper.
Accelerated aging studies were conducted to compare
the machine-made high temperature fiber reinforced
(HTFR) paper to a commercially available electrical
grade kraft paper. Both papers were 0.25 mm thick and
thermally upgraded using dicyandiamide. The samples
were aged in mineral oil at 170C for 500, 1000, 2000,
and 4000 hours.
To rule out any chemical
incompatibilities, the test cells included proportionate
quantities of other materials commonly found in liquidfilled transformers, such as copper, aluminum, magnet
wire, core steel, and pressboard.
Tables 1 through 6 show the thermal aging test results.
The tables show that the unaged mechanical and
dielectric properties of the machine-made HTFR paper
were comparable to those of the standard electrical
grade kraft. After 4000 hours at 170C, the HTFR
paper had tensile strength values approximately 50
percent greater, tear resistance values nine times
greater, burst strength values five times greater, and ply
separation strength 2.5 times greater than the control
sample.
The standard kraft paper had no fold
properties at any test interval greater than 500 hours,
whereas the HTFR paper retained fold endurance
values of 3 to 5 at 4000 hours. The dielectric strength
of the HTFR paper was similar to that of the standard
paper at all test points. The oil properties were also
tested at each interval and found to be substantially the
same between the HTFR and standard paper cells.

constructed with the HTFR insulation for field testing,


including a 7.5 MVA unit presently in service at an
industrial substation.

CONCLUSIONS

High temperature fiber reinforced paper is a significant


advancement in insulation technology.
Adding
synthetic fibers and a binder to kraft paper insulation
has been shown to improve its thermal durability
without adversely affecting other properties. As the
cellulose degrades, the synthetic fiber reinforcing helps
the paper maintain its mechanical integrity. Thermal
upgrading with dicyandiamide aids in the stabilization
of both the cellulose and the binder.

Photo 3: Close-up view of reinforcing fibers in an aged


handsheet after tensile testing.

The fibers used to reinforce the kraft insulation are less


susceptible to thermal degradation than the cellulose
fibers. Inspection of the HTFR paper after aging
revealed that the synthetic fibers formed a reinforcing
backbone, imparting structural support to the paper
even after the cellulose fibers have weakened. Some of
the reinforcing fibers can be seen in photo 3, which
shows the breaking point of an aged handsheet after
tensile testing.

FULL-SCALE TRANSFORMER TESTING

As an intermediate screening test, overhead-type


distribution transformers were assembled with the
HTFR paper and standard electrical kraft paper.
Accelerated thermal aging was performed by subjecting
the HTFR paper and standard paper transformers to
identical severe overload cycles.
During these
overload cycles, the transformer windings would reach
a peak temperature of over 200C. After the equivalent
of 40 years of insulation life, the transformers were
disassembled and inspected. The standard kraft paper
was brittle and had lost most of its mechanical
integrity. The sheet insulation broke apart while
attempting to disassemble the windings. In contrast,
the HTFR paper retained a significant amount of
mechanical integrity, and the sheet insulation could be
removed intact.
A three-temperature test on fully assembled distribution
transformers, in accordance with the IEEE C57.100
thermal life test procedure (6), is in progress to validate
the thermal performance of the HTFR paper.
Additionally, several transformers have been

A more thermally durable insulation material leads to a


more thermally durable device. This can be capitalized
on in one of several wayseither higher continuous
operating temperatures, more extreme overload
excursions, or a combination of both. This improved
thermal durability is more economical than a fully
synthetic material, since the majority of the insulation
is still composed of the less expensive cellulose fiber.
This may enable the economic use of high temperature
fiber reinforced cellulose insulation in widespread
applications.

REFERENCES

1. Fabre J and Pichon A, 1960, Deteriorating


Processes and Products of Paper in Oil. Application to
Transformers, CIGRE Paper 137
2. IEEE Std C57.91-1995, IEEE guide for loading
mineral-oil-immersed transformers
3. IEC Pub 354, 1991, Loading guide for oilimmersed power transformers
4. Ford J, Leonard M, Swiss J, and Gainer G, 1958,
INSULDURAnother Milestone in Transformer
Insulation Development, AIEE Trans, 77, 804-808
5. McNutt W, Provost R, and Whearty R, 1996,
Thermal Life Evaluation of High Temperature
Insulation Systems and Hybrid Insulation Systems in
Mineral Oil, IEEE Trans Pwr Del, 11, 1391-1399
6. IEEE Std C57.100-1999, IEEE standard test
procedure for thermal evaluation of liquid-immersed
distribution and power transformers

170C Accelerated Aging Test Results


Machine-Made Papers in Mineral Oil

Table 1: Tensile StrengthMachine Direction (ASTM D828)


Time

Unaged

500 hours

1000 hours

2000 hours

4000 hours

Paper

(MPa)

(MPa)

(MPa)

(MPa)

(MPa)

Thermally
Upgraded Kraft
Paper
Synthetic Fiber
Reinforced
Paper

106

64.3

45.4

13.2

15.9

15.0

10.3

6.2

4.3

2.8

130

87.5

43.9

37.6

25.3

4.4

11.1

5.5

5.1

9.0

Table 2: Burst Strength (ASTM D774)


Time

Unaged

500 hours

1000 hours

2000 hours

4000 hours

Paper

(kPa)

(kPa)

(kPa)

(kPa)

(kPa)

Thermally
Upgraded Kraft
Paper
Synthetic Fiber
Reinforced
Paper

786

300

97

20

17

124

50

724

230

130

97

110

50

97

10

Table 3: Fold Endurance (ASTM D2176)


Time

Unaged

500 hours

1000 hours

2000 hours

4000 hours

Paper

(Number of
times folded)
10

(Number of
times folded)
1

(Number of
times folded)
0

(Number of
times folded)
0

(Number of
times folded)
0

1.0

448

20

126

14.5

2.9

1.5

Thermally
Upgraded Kraft
Paper
Synthetic Fiber
Reinforced
Paper

Table 4: Tear Resistance (ASTM D689)


Time

Unaged

500 hours

1000 hours

2000 hours

4000 hours

Paper

(gF)

(gF)

(gF)

(gF)

(gF)

Thermally
Upgraded Kraft
Paper
Synthetic Fiber
Reinforced
Paper

372

85

36

13

13

275

172

154

119

122

170C Accelerated Aging Test Results


Machine-Made Papers in Mineral Oil

Table 5: Ply Separation (ASTM D1028)


Time

Unaged

500 hours

1000 hours

2000 hours

4000 hours

Paper

(kPa)

(kPa)

(kPa)

(kPa)

(kPa)

Thermally
Upgraded Kraft
Paper
Synthetic Fiber
Reinforced
Paper

1070

980

770

590

590

1750

1720

1300

1400

1560

Table 6: Paper Dielectric Breakdown Strength Testing (ASTM D149)


Time

Unaged

500 hours

1000 hours

2000 hours

4000 hours

Paper

(kV)

(kV)

(kV)

(kV)

(kV)

Thermally
Upgraded Kraft
Paper
Synthetic Fiber
Reinforced
Paper

13.59

14.08

14.40

13.31

14.03

1.15

0.39

0.52

0.73

0.64

13.59

12.92

14.04

13.91

13.91

0.55

1.17

0.60

0.28

0.40