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2013 IEEE Student Conference on Research and Development (SCOReD), 16 -17 December 2013, Putrajaya, Malaysia

Simulation of Voltage and Electric-Field Distribution

for Contaminated Glass Insulator
N. A. Othman,* M. A. M. Piah, Z. Adzis, H. Ahmad, N. A. Ahmad
Institute of High Voltage and High Current,
Faculty of Electrical Engineering,
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia,
81310 UTM Johor Bahru,

Abstract—Overhead transmission line insulators are designed thin homogenous layer with different conductivities on the
to perform dual functions namely electrical protection and surface insulation. Boundary element method is applied in [3]
mechanical support. However, irregular distribution of voltage to observe the effects on the field distribution to insulator shape
and electric-field in the insulators may lead to corona, partial for in different conditions. The calculation of field distribution
discharge, premature aging and indeed flashover. An attempt has using charge simulation method around a post type insulator
been made with finite element software to calculate the voltage for a different severity of surface contamination has been
and electric-field distribution in this paper. QuickField™ conducted for power frequency voltage, lightning and
Professional software is adopted to simulate the distribution of switching impulse voltages in [4]. Surface charge simulation
voltage and electric-field along the insulator surface with and
method has been used on the surface of the element cylindrical,
without the presence of contaminants. Glass insulator,
conical and toroidal in [5] to investigate the effects of
particularly cap and pin insulator is taken as main research
object. The result shows that the contaminated insulator distorts
asymmetric contamination on the axisymmetric insulator.
the distribution of voltage and electric-field significantly. Meanwhile, the distribution of e-field for polluted
Therefore, vital to study both voltage and electric field insulators is investigated in [6] using finite difference method
distribution as it is valuable for designing insulator as well as to by simplifying the boundary conditions. The finite element
predict the performance of the insulator under contaminated method (FEM) is one of the most popular methods that have
conditions. been used extensively due to its versatility, makes it easier to
Keywords— glass insulator; voltage distribution; electric field
incorporate into standard program [7]. Voltage and e-field
distribution; finite element software. distribution for different types of ceramic disc insulators were
studied in [8] by using two-dimensional (2D) FEM software,
where the supporting structures, conductors and other
I. INTRODUCTION accessories of the power transmission network is neglected.
Insulators strings are extensively used for suspension of Reliable agreement was found between the experimental and
overhead transmission line have provided excellent service for simulation results in [9] using three-dimensional (3D) FEM
decades. However, overhead insulator has beset crucial software. However, each of numerical methods has its own
problems when dealing with contamination. Since the earliest merits and drawbacks that can be achieved in [10].
days of power transmission network invented, the deposition of
In this paper, one unit suspension insulator was simulated
contamination source especially from industrial and coastal
using the QuickField™ Professional software that based on
areas on the insulator surface becomes a major concern [1].
finite element method. A thin film of contaminant is modeled
Indeed, the voltage and electric-field (e-field) distribution on the insulating surface to study in depth the influence of
of insulator string from insulator pin to insulator cap is greatly contamination layer against voltage and e-field distribution.
uneven. High e-field intensity and high voltage distribution is
believed might easily lead to corona, partial discharge, II. INSULATOR AND CONTAMINATION MODEL
premature aging and even flashover. These problems will
affect the distribution of electricity throughout the country as High-voltage glass suspension insulators of cap and pin
well as affecting the operation of transmission lines. Therefore, particularly U40B [11] type is selected in this study. Technical
the calculation of e-field and voltage distribution in and around parameters of the modeled insulator is shown in Fig.1 where
the insulation against contamination is important to be studied six different regions are depicted as cap (G1), cement between
to improve the reliability of the system. cap and glass (G2), glass (G3), cement between glass and pin
(G4), pin (G5), and surface to be contaminated (G6). Diameter,
Computation of voltage changes and e-field distribution is D of the insulator is 175mm, configuration height, H is
believed to provide information on the condition of the
110mm and nominal creepage distance of the insulator is
insulator. Various software that based on numerical methods
has been adopted to calculate the voltage and e-field 190mm for this model.
distribution as early as in [2], where the classical method of For the contamination model, a thin film is created so that
integral equation has been applied to investigate the effects of the entire surface of the insulator coated by contamination as

This work was partly supported by a project grant 01H69 and 03H86
from the Malaysia Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) and University of
Technology Malaysia (UTM).

978-1-4799-2656-5/13/$31.00 ©2013 IEEE 116

shown in Fig. 2b. This film is also modeled as a uniform TABLE 1. MATERIAL PROPERTIES [12, 13]
conductive layer with 2mm thickness, adopting the properties Types of Relative electric Electric conductivity,
of sea water as the contamination source. material permittivity, İr ı (S/m)
Glass 4.2 0
Cement Grout 15 10-4
Air 1 0
Contamination 81 10-3

This analysis allows users to analyze e-field caused by

time-harmonic voltage applied. Combination of Gauss’s Law,
Current Continuity Equation and Ohm’s Law given in (1), (2)
and (3) respectively is applied in this analysis:
∇⋅ ε E = ρ (1)
∇⋅ J = − (2)
J =σE (3)

where ȡ is electric charge density (C/m3),

İ is dielectric constant of dielectric material (İ=İrİo).
ı is the electric conductivity of dielectric material
Fig. 1. Schematic of the U40B Insulator Model Adopted for Study [11]
J is current density (A/m2)
E is electric field strength (V/m).
The simulation is modeled in free space, where the
potential of 11kV is applied to the insulator pin, while the
insulator cap is grounded. It is worth noting that the
supporting structures, conductors and other accessories are to
be neglected in this study.


The voltage and e-field distribution for clean insulator is
illustrated in Fig. 3 and 5, respectively. The voltage is
distributed to gradually decrease from insulator pin to
insulator cap. Meanwhile, the e-field strength is quite high
inside the glass material followed by nearby area of insulator
pin and finally around the insulator cap. The density of field
lines also represents the intensity of the e-field inside and
around the insulator.
The voltage and e-field distribution for contaminated
insulator is different from the aforementioned condition. The
Fig. 2. Modeling of the insulator in: (a) clean (b) contaminated voltage distribution seems to be distributed evenly from
insulator’s pin to cap along the insulator shed as illustrated in
Fig. 4. Meanwhile, e-field distribution in Fig. 6 concentrated
III. SIMULATION PARAMETERS more within the glass located between the insulator’s cap and
The actual profile data of the insulator in Table 1 is pin followed by the insulator shed.
transferred manually to the computer for simulation purpose.
The voltage distribution trend along creepage distance for
By adopting a cylindrical reference system with the z-axis
coincident with the axis of the insulator, the simulation is both conditions is completely different as illustrated in Fig. 7.
performed in an axisymmetric 2D problem which is indeed a The distribution of voltage for clean insulator decreased
sharply from 11kV to 4.2kV. This voltage then fluctuates until
representation of 3D modeling model in QuickField™ [12].
100mm distance subsequently remains at approximately 4kV
Since the insulator surface is modeled to be contaminated and
and finally drops to 0kV when approaching the insulator cap.
wet, the simulation is performed in AC conduction analysis
This is because the voltage distribution under clean and dry
with 50Hz frequency.
condition is characteristically as capacitive [14], which is

determined by capacitance of the insulator and stray

Fig. 5. E-Field Distribution with Field Lines of Clean Insulator

Fig. 3. Voltage Distribution of Clean Insulator

Fig. 6. E-Field Distribution with Field Lines of Contaminated Insulator

Meanwhile, the voltage distribution seems to gradually

decrease from the insulator pin to the insulator cap when
Fig. 4. Voltage Distribution of Contaminated Insulator contamination layer is modeled on the insulator surface. The
insulator surface becomes more conductive in contaminated
conditions which cause voltage distribution turns into resistive
nature. Hence, it can be concluded that the voltage distribution
gradually approaches the linear resistive distribution in
contaminated conditions.


Voltage (kV)

0 50 100 150 200
Creepage distance measured from insulator pin (mm)
Fig. 7. Voltage distribution along creepage distance measured from insulator
pin Fig. 9. Location of measured charge

Fig. 8 illustrates the e-field distribution for clean and

contaminated insulators. It is worth to note that high e-field is 3.5
obtained at the triple junction region (air-cap-glass) in both Clean
conditions usually due to manufacturing imperfections. Contaminated
However, e-field strength found in the contaminated insulator 2.5
is much higher compared to the clean insulator. A drastic

Charge (μC)
increase in the e-field strength in the gap between the glass and 2
cap may lead to the occurrence of glow corona that ultimately 1.5
causes flashover. The existence of glow corona is believed due
to the effect of negative ions that resulting from the discharge 1
process in the gap area [15, 16]. It is therefore crucial to pay
attention in this region during the manufacturing process to 0.5
prevent any discharge activities occur easily.
1 2 3 4
An attempt to measure the charge value at four different
Location of measurement
location of glass insulator has been made as seen in Fig. 9. It
Fig. 10. Value of charge according to the location
has been accepted in Fig. 10 that the value of charge in the
contaminated insulator is much higher compared to the clean
insulator at all four locations. The value of charge in the Indeed, charges are developed during the applied voltage.
location 4 contributes to the highest amount of charge The released electrons from the charge developed are believed
followed by location 1, 2 and 3. Though the amount of charge may become ionized through collision on their way to anode
in the location 4 is highest, due to natural cleaning process electrode and forming the ionization current [16].
such raining, contamination problems can be overcome at this
location. V. CONCLUSION
An attempt to simulate the distribution of voltage and
electric field for clean and contaminated insulators using the
QuickField™ Professional software is conducted in this paper.
2,000 Contaminated
Electric field strength (KV/mm)

Cap and pin insulator is taken as main research object with

contaminant layer are modeled on the surface of the insulator.
The simulation results show that the accumulated contaminants
on the insulator surface significantly affects the voltage and e-
field distribution. This distorted field will expedite the
500 premature aging process that may lead to flashover and result
in power system network interrupted. It is believed that the
0 calculated field would help in improving the insulator design
especially for contaminated areas with various climates.
-500 From this study, it was found that the voltage distribution
0 50 100 150 200
Creepage distance measured from insulator pin (mm) seems not stable and decrease drastically at the insulator ribs
Fig. 8. E-field strength along creepage distance measured from insulator pin (at a distance of 100mm earliest) for clean and contaminated

insulator, respectively. Therefore, careful attention must be Distribution of Polymeric Insulator," J. Basic. Appl. Sci. Res., vol. 2,
pp. 12482-12491, 2012.
made in designing the insulator especially at the insulator ribs [15] F. F. Bologna, J. P. Reynders, and A. C. Britten, "Corona Discharge
to overcome the unstable voltage distribution on the insulator. activity on a String of Glass Cap-and-Pin Insulators under Conditions
So, the studied approach using this commercial available of Light wetting, Light non-uniform Contamination," in IEEE Bologna
software is applicable to study the distribution of voltage as Power Tech Conference Proceedings, 2003, p. 8 pp. Vol.3.
[16] K. Feser and H. Singer, "From the Glow Corona into the Breakdown,"
well as e-field before designing any type of insulators. Hence,
ETZ-A Bd., vol. 1, pp. 36-39, 1972.
further simulation investigations are encouraged on various
types of disc insulator used in high voltage transmission line

This work was partly supported by a project grant 01H69

and 03H86 from the Malaysia Ministry of Higher Education
(MOHE) and University of Technology Malaysia (UTM).

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