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IET Science, Measurement & Technology

Research Article

ISSN 1751-8822
Effect of nanoparticles on transformer oil Received on 17th March 2016
Revised on 22nd June 2016
breakdown strength: experiment and theory Accepted on 18th July 2016
doi: 10.1049/iet-smt.2016.0104
www.ietdl.org

Mohamed E. Ibrahim ✉, Amr M. Abd-Elhady, Mohamed A. Izzularab


High Voltage and Dielectric Materials Laboratory, Faculty of Engineering, Menoufia University, Shebin El-Kom 32511, Egypt
✉ E-mail: en.ezzat@yahoo.com

Abstract: This study presents theoretical as well as experimental studies in order to obtain interpretations about the role of
nanoparticles in the breakdown mechanism of transformer oil. The published breakdown mechanisms for nanofilled
transformer oil are briefly discussed in order to highlight the points of agreement and disagreement with these
mechanisms. Moreover, a proposed breakdown mechanism for nanofilled oil is presented depending on a proposed
particle charging mechanism that is theoretically discussed and experimentally validated. Finally, the obtained
experimental results prove the efficacy of the proposed theoretical mechanisms.

1 Introduction the nanoparticle is exposed to charge dynamic process that is


illustrated schematically in Fig. 1. This process assumes positive and
Electric transformers have a wide spread in electric power systems negative charge formation at the upper and lower hemispheres of
either in transmission or distribution. Oil cooled transformers are nanoparticles. The negative charges are formed at the hemisphere
popular due to good cooling process. It contains dielectric oil for opposite to the positive electrode, but the positive charges are formed
the purposes of insulating and cooling. Therefore, the interest for opposite to the negative one. In their opinion, this process takes place
enhancing dielectric and thermal properties of transformer oil due to polarisation in semiconducting and insulating nanoparticles
using recent technologies such as nanotechnology, becomes more and charge induction in conductive ones. Accordingly, negative
extensive [1–17]. In these studies, nanoparticles are suspended in electrons formed due to oil ionisation are trapped to the positive
the oil at certain loadings to achieve the desired properties. All hemisphere until the particle is fully saturated with negative charges.
researches that carried out in this area noted that conductive, The nanoparticle saturation charge can be computed from (1) [15].
semiconductive, and dielectric nanoparticles enhance the insulation According to their interpretations, the nanoparticle inside oil should
performance of the oil [15]. In other words, they increase the carry a negative charge when exposed to an external electric field. In
breakdown strength of the nanofilled oil. the present work, it is found that nanoparticle can be positively or
In fact, a lot of research works were done to give interpretations negatively charged according to the material type as experimentally
about the mechanisms by which nanoparticles enhance the illustrated and theoretically discussed in the next sections.
breakdown strength of insulating fluids [14–16]. In [14, 15], the Moreover, Atiya et al. [16] assume that the trapping process
enhancement in breakdown voltage is returned to electron trapping occurs due to formation of a positively charged interfacial region
by the nanoparticles. They consider that nanoparticles trap around a negatively charged particle by the same theory presented
negative streamer charges due to polarisation, in semiconductive by Tanaka et al. [17] for solid nanocomposites. In their research,
and dielectric, or charge induction, in conductive, nanoparticles. no interpretations are presented about the source of these positive
Moreover, Atiya et al. [16] return the enhancement in breakdown charges. In the present work, the carried out experiments provide
strength to the interfacial region formed around the nanoparticle an evidence about the charging of the particle itself as appear in
by the same theory proposed by Tanaka et al. [17] in solid dielectrics. the next sections.
Looking to all the above theories, it can be noted that there is a
disagreement in how nanoparticles enhance the breakdown strength ⎧
⎨ −12p11 EO R2 , conductive particle
of dielectric fluids. Therefore, this paper presents theoretical as well 12
QS = (1)
⎩ −12p11 EO R
2
as experimental studies in order to obtain interpretations about the , dielectric particle
role of nanoparticles in the breakdown mechanism of transformer 211 + 12
oil. The published breakdown mechanisms for nanofilled
transformer oil are briefly discussed in order to highlight the points where, Eo is the external electric field strength in V/m, R is the
of agreement and disagreement with these mechanisms. Moreover, a particle radius in m, and ɛ1 and ɛ2 are the oil and particle
proposed breakdown mechanism for nanofilled oil is presented permittivities, respectively.
depending on a proposed particle charging mechanism that is
theoretically discussed and experimentally validated.
3 Experimental details
2 Breakdown mechanisms in literatures for In this section, the experimental procedures for preparation of
nanofilled transformer oil nanofilled transformer oil are presented. Moreover, two types of
experiments are carried out. The first experiment is implemented
According to Hwang et al. [14] and Sima et al. [15], the breakdown to determine the particle charge (positive or negative) when
voltage of nanofilled transformer oil is increased as compared with exposed to an external electric field. The second experiment is
unfilled oil. They returned this increase to negative streamer charges carried out to measure the breakdown strength of nanofilled
trapping by nanoparticles. In their research works, they consider that transformer oil using conductive nanoparticles (iron nickel oxide,

IET Sci. Meas. Technol., 2016, Vol. 10, Iss. 8, pp. 839–845
& The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2016 839
Fig. 1 Particle charging mechanism according to Sima et al. [15]

Fe2NiO4), insulating nanoparticles (cadmium sulphide, CdS), and a In this experiment, nanoparticles with three different material
mixture of the two types as illustrated in the following subsections. types are used. They are; iron nickel oxide (Fe2NiO4, 50 nm
average particle size) as conductive nanoparticles, zinc oxide
(ZnO, 80 nm average particle size) as semiconductive
3.1 Synthesis and preparation of transformer oil nanoparticles, and cadmium sulphide (CdS, 4.5 nm average
nanofluid particle size) as dielectric nanoparticles.

Fig. 2 shows a schematic diagram that illustrates the preparation


process of transformer oil nanofluid. Nanopowder is added to a
highly refined mineral oil of specifications described in Table 1.
The nanopowder-oil mixture is stirred using a magnetic stirrer for
30 min at room temperature. Then, the mixture is exposed to
ultrasonic waves using an ultrasonic homogeniser for another 30
min in order to achieve a good dispersion of nanoparticles inside
the transformer oil samples. The prepared oil samples are degassed
at a pressure of 0.06 MPa under the atmospheric pressure in a
vacuum chamber for 15 h before testing.

3.2 Nanoparticle charge type test

The objective of this experiment is to identify the nanoparticle


charge type (positive or negative) when exposed to an external
electric field. Fig. 3 shows the schematic diagram of the
experimental setup used to identify the charge type. In this
experiment, a high voltage DC of 5 kV is applied to the nanofilled
oil sample using two parallel stainless steel electrodes with 3 cm
spacing between them. The reason behind the choice of 5 kV
applied voltage and 3 cm spacing is to ensure that the applied
electric field strength is far from the breakdown value. This
voltage is applied to a period of five minutes. Then, the voltage is
disconnected and the two electrodes are taken out from the oil
sample. Using visible evaluation, the particle charging type can be
identified as the opposite sign of the electrode at which
nanoparticles are deposited on it. In other words, the particles are
positively charged when they are deposited on the negative
electrode due to the attraction force. However, the particles that
attracted to the positive electrode if they are negatively charged. Fig. 2 Transformer oil nanofluid preparation method

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840 & The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2016
Table 1 Transformer oil specifications is 2 mm. The frequency of the AC voltage is 50 Hz and the
voltage rise rate is kept at 500 V/s and all measurements are
Property Specification
carried out at room temperature according to the standard.
density at 20°C 875 kg/m3
Moreover, the DC breakdown test is carried out considering the
flash point 140°C same conditions (same electrodes, gap spacing, and voltage rate of
kinematic viscosity at 40°C 9.4 mm2/s rise) for the AC breakdown test.
pour point −57°C It is worth to mention that, a concentration of 0.06 g/l of Fe2NiO4,
neutralisation value <0.01 mg KOH/g
dielectric dissipation factor at 90°C 0.002
average particle size of 50 nm to represent conductive nanoparticles,
is evaluated. The same concentration of CdS nanoparticles, average
particle size of 4.5 nm to represent dielectric nanoparticles, is also
considered. Moreover, the breakdown voltage tests are performed
on 0.06 g/l using 50% Wt. of Fe2NiO4 (0.03 g/l) and 50% Wt. of
CdS (0.03 g/l). Additional tests are accomplished on another
mixture consists of 0.06 g/l Fe2NiO44 and 0.06 g/l CdS. In order
to confirm the obtained results, each test is carried out considering
three oil samples of each concentration level. Each sample is
tested 20 times with one minute separation between every two
consecutive tests [18]. The evaluation of breakdown voltage for
the oil samples is carried out based on average value. However,
Weibull distribution is applied to analyse the 50 and 10%
probabilities of the obtained 20 breakdown voltages for all oil
samples. The breakdown voltages at 50 and 10% probabilities are
related to the critical and reliability (lowest possible breakdown
voltage) of the oil samples, respectively.

4 Experimental results

In this section, the experimental results of the prescribed two tests are
presented and discussed. These results are introduced to show the
ability of different charge formation on nanoparticle as well as the
effect of particle material type on breakdown strength of
transformer oil nanofluid as follows.

Fig. 3 Experimental setup for nanoparticle charge type identification 4.1 Nanoparticle charge type

In fact, transformer oil nanofluid samples are prepared as previously


3.3 Breakdown voltage test of transformer oil discussed in Section 3.1. Three different nanoparticle material types
are used in this test. These nanopowders are Fe2NiO4, of 50 nm
This test is carried out to measure the AC and DC breakdown average diameter to represent conductive nanoparticles, ZnO, of
voltages of the prepared transformer oil nanofluid as well as pure 80 nm average diameter to represent semiconductive nanoparticles,
oil samples. The objective of this test is to investigate the effect of and CdS, of 4.5 nm average particle diameter to represent
nanoparticle charging polarity on the breakdown voltage of dielectric nanoparticles. Fig. 4 shows a photograph that illustrates
transformer oil nanofluid. The AC breakdown test is carried out the accumulation of nanoparticles over the electrode surface.
using a liquid dielectric test set according to ASTM D1816 Although this test is repeated at different nanoparticle
standard. The gap spacing between the two mushroom electrodes concentrations, it is found that Fe2NiO4 and ZnO nanoparticles

Fig. 4 Nanoparticles accumulation on stainless steel electrodes

IET Sci. Meas. Technol., 2016, Vol. 10, Iss. 8, pp. 839–845
& The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2016 841
Table 2 Average DC breakdown voltage of pure and nanofilled oil determined and confirmed. The reasons for this action are
samples discussed in Section 5.1.
Sample Average breakdown Per cent increase or
voltage, kV decrease, %
4.2 DC and AC breakdown voltage
pure 23.4 –
0.06 g/l Fe2NiO4 27.1 15.81 In this test, two nanoparticle types are used. These nanoparticles are
0.06 g/l CdS 25.05 7.05
0.06 g/l (50% Fe2NiO4 + 28.2 20.51
Fe2NiO4 and CdS. These particles are chosen to represent positively
50% CdS) (Fe2NiO4) and negatively (CdS) charged particles to study their
0.06 g/l Fe2NiO4 + 0.06 20.9 −10.68 effect on the breakdown properties of transformer oil nanofluids.
g/l CdS The tests are carried out considering DC and AC voltages. The
prepared oil samples are tested with DC voltage to validate the
breakdown mechanism that is discussed in Section 5.2. However,
the AC breakdown voltage test is performed as the transformer oil
Table 3 Average AC breakdown voltage of pure and nanofilled oil is subjected to AC stresses in the real field.
samples
Table 2 shows the average DC breakdown voltage for the pure and
Sample Average breakdown Per cent increase or the nanofilled transformer oil samples. From this table, the following
voltage, kV. decrease, % points can be concluded:
The addition of 0.06 g/l Fe2NiO4 nanoparticles to the base
pure 18.475 – transformer oil results in an increase in the average DC breakdown
0.06 g/l Fe2NiO4 22.96 24.27
0.06 g/l CdS 19.225 4.06 voltage by 15.81%.
0.06 g/l (50% Fe2NiO4 + 25.655 38.86 However, the addition of 0.06 g/l CdS nanoparticles results in an
50% CdS) increase in the average DC breakdown voltage by 7.05%.
0.06 g/l Fe2NiO4 + 0.06 12.37 −33.04 Moreover, the addition of 0.06 g/l (50% Fe2NiO4 + 50% CdS)
g/l CdS
nanoparticles results in an increase in the average DC breakdown
voltage by 20.5%.
Finally, increasing the nanoparticles addition to 0.06 g/l Fe2NiO4
plus 0.06 g/l CdS results in a decrease in the average DC breakdown
accumulate on the negative electrode but CdS nanoparticles voltage by 10.68%.
accumulate on the positive electrode. This means that both Table 3 gives the average value of the AC breakdown voltage of
Fe2NiO4 (conductive) and ZnO (semiconductive) nanoparticles the five concentrations. From the results, the maximum percentage
acquire positive charges when exposed to an external electric field. increase in the average AC breakdown voltage is 38.86% and
However, CdS nanoparticles (dielectric) acquire negative charges. occurs with the sample of 0.06 g/l (50% Fe2NiO4 + 50% CdS).
In order to confirm the nanoparticle charge type, the electrode (at Moreover, the maximum percentage increase in the 50%
which nanoparticles are deposited on it) is reinserted in the oil probability AC breakdown voltage is 35.6% and in the 10%
sample and the applied voltage polarity is reversed. It is noted that probability is 62.96% and are achieved at the same concentration
the accumulated nanoparticles leave this electrode and is deposited (50% Fe2NiO4 + 50% CdS) as shown in Fig. 5. Therefore, the
on the other electrode. Therefore, the nanoparticle charge type is addition of this mixture at a concentration of 0.06 g/l (50%

Fig. 5 Weibull probability versus breakdown voltage of pure and nanofilled oil samples

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842 & The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2016
Fig. 6 Effect of nanoparticle permittivity on electric field distribution

Fe2NiO4 + 50% CdS) can significantly improve the AC breakdown permittivity. This is validated using finite element analysis method
voltage of transformer oil. The obtained results show that adding a (COMSOL) as illustrated in Appendix. The electric field exerts a
mixture between positively and negatively charged particles with force (F = qE, where, F is the force in Newton, q is the charge
the same loading of only positively or only negatively charged value in Coulomb, and E is the electric field strength in V/m) on
particles provide a better increase in the breakdown voltage of the nanoparticle electrons. The exerted force can attract one or
nanofluids. This result is discussed in Section 5.2. more electrons from lower to higher energy levels leaving a hole
for every attracted electron as illustrated schematically in Fig. 7.
These attracted electrons are distributed over the nanoparticle
5 Proposed mechanisms surface, see Fig. 7. Then, the positive charges (ions) formed in the
oil are attracted to the particle surface negative charges. Therefore,
In this section, the possible nanoparticles charging as well as the the number of particle positive surface charges becomes higher
breakdown mechanisms are explained as follows. than the negative ones and the particle charge becomes positive.
This gives an interpretation about why Fe2NiO4 (43.3 relative
permittivity) and ZnO (10.9 relative permittivity) are attracted to
5.1 Nanoparticle charging mechanism the negative electrode.
For nanoparticles that have low dielectric constants, the
According to the experimental results presented in Section 4.1, polarisation mechanism [15] discussed in Section 2 can be
nanoparticles can hold positive (such as Fe2NiO4 and ZnO) or applied. Hence, the exerted force from the external magnetic field
negative (such as CdS) charges when exposed to an external does not have the ability for electron attraction. However, the
electric field. Therefore, two nanoparticle charging mechanisms particle is polarised and the negative charges generated due to
may be found. The first mechanism gives the interpretations about ionisation of some oil molecules are attached to the positive
why the nanoparticle holds a positive charge and can be explained charges and the particle becomes negatively charged. Therefore,
as follows. CdS (5.7 relative permittivity) used in this paper is attracted to the
Inserting a nanoparticle inside the insulating oil results in a positive electrode. The exerted force from the external electric
deformation in electric field distribution as shown schematically in field is not allowed to attract an electron from a lower level to a
Fig. 6 considering the relative permittivity of the particle is higher higher one in CdS due to the lower electric field value at its interface.
than it for oil. It can be seen that, the maximum electric field
strength occurs at the nanoparticle/oil interface. The maximum
electric field strength increases with the increase in particle 5.2 Breakdown mechanism

According to the DC breakdown voltage results presented in Section


4.2, adding either positively charged (Fe2NiO4) or negatively
charged (CdS) nanoparticles results in an increase in the
breakdown voltage of the oil nanofluid. This result comes as the
positively charged nanoparticle holds positive charges that can trap

Fig. 7 Possible charging mechanism of a positively charged nanoparticle Fig. 8 Electric field reduction due to mixed nanoparticles

IET Sci. Meas. Technol., 2016, Vol. 10, Iss. 8, pp. 839–845
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The increase in loading ratio of nanoparticle mixture can lead to an
adverse effect on the breakdown strength of oil nanofluid.

7 References
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6 Conclusions
An experimental study about the effect of different nanoparticle
material types on the DC and AC breakdown voltages of
transformer oil nanofluid has been presented. The effect of the 8 Appendix
external electric field on the charge type (i.e. positive or negative)
has been also studied experimentally and discussed theoretically. To confirm the theoretical interpretations about the effect of
Moreover, a breakdown mechanism to give interpretations about nanoparticle permittivity on electric field distribution that is
the role of particle charge type on the breakdown strength has presented in Section 5.1, finite element analysis method using
been theoretically presented and experimentally validated. Finally, COMSOL is used. The simulated model consists of one
the following points have been concluded: nanoparticle (diameter = 50 nm) inside an oil sample (relative
Nanoparticles of higher relative permittivities tend to be positively permittivity = 2) as shown in Fig. 10. Three nanoparticle
charged when exposed to an external electric field, but particles of permittivities (5.7, 10.9, and 43.3) are studied considering an
lower permittivities tend to be polarised and negatively charged. applied electric field of 10 kV/mm. These permittivities are chosen
Either positively or negatively charged nanoparticles can trap to simulate the three materials (Fe2NiO4, ZnO and CdS) used in
streamer electrons. Therefore, both DC and AC breakdown this paper. The effect of nanoparticle permittivity on electric field
voltages of transformer oil nanofluid are increased. distribution is shown in Fig. 11. As illustrated by this figure, the
The addition of a mixture of positively and negatively charged higher particle permittivity, the higher electric field is found at
particles at certain loadings can give more improvement in oil particle/oil interface. These results confirm the theoretical
nanofluid breakdown strength. interpretations given in Section 5.1.

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Fig. 10 Electric field distribution around a nanoparticle inside transformer oil, relative permittivity of the particle = 5.7, relative permittivity of oil = 2, and the
applied voltage = 10 kV/mm, all dimensions in nm

Fig. 11 Electric field distribution in oil sample considering different


nanoparticle relative permittivities

IET Sci. Meas. Technol., 2016, Vol. 10, Iss. 8, pp. 839–845
& The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2016 845