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Fire Technology

Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation Operated in Variable


Frequency Mode
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Full Title: Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation Operated in Variable
Frequency Mode

Article Type: Manuscript

Keywords: electric conductor; variable frequency drive; overheating; signal shape; power factor

Corresponding Author: Dorindo Elam Cardenas Estrada, Ph.D.


Technological University of Panama
Panama, Panama PANAMA

Corresponding Author Secondary


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Corresponding Author's Institution: Technological University of Panama

Corresponding Author's Secondary


Institution:

First Author: Dorindo Elam Cardenas Estrada, Ph.D.

First Author Secondary Information:

Order of Authors: Dorindo Elam Cardenas Estrada, Ph.D.

Ofodike A. Ezekoye, P.E., Ph.D.

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Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation


Operated in Variable Frequency Mode

Dorindo E. Cardenas · Ofodike A. Ezekoye

Received: date / Accepted: date

Abstract NFPA 70 provides guidelines on conducting wire size rating for different service
current ratings. Additionally, an engineering calculation method is provided for unusual
cases. While not apparent, these guidelines are valid only for 60 Hz type frequencies. Elec-
trical conductors have increased Joule heating with higher frequency operation because of
electromagnetic effects like skin and proximity effects and the increase of total reactance of
conductors and appliances.
Until now, those effects have not been a fire safety concern, but the large increase in
high power applications using frequencies higher than 60 Hz in variable frequency drives
(VFD), also called adjustable frequency drives (AFD) or simply ”AC drives”, to control the
operation of large motors, changes this.
While research has improved the performance of motors and AC drives, there has been
relatively little research on the thermal effects and fire safety implications of these systems.
In this paper we show that conductors used for variable frequency power electronics have
heat dissipation much larger than what is calculated according to the standard formulas used
for 60 Hz systems.
This paper presents a model to understand the thermal behavior of electrical conductors
operated at variable voltage frequencies and shapes. The accelerated aging effects on the
insulation are also discussed.
Keywords electric conductor · variable frequency drive · overheating · signal shape · power
factor

Technological University of Panama


Electrical Engineering Faculty, Campus Victor Levi Sasso, Panama
Tel.: +507-560-3043
Fax: +507-560-3041
E-mail: dorindo.cardenas@utp.ac.pa
The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Austin TX 78712, USA
Tel.: +512-471-3085
Fax: +512-471-8727
E-mail: dezekoye@mail.utexas.edu
BLIND Manuscript without contact information
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5 Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation
6 Operated in Variable Frequency Mode
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16 Received: date / Accepted: date
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19 Abstract NFPA 70 provides guidelines on conducting wire size rating for different service
20 current ratings. Additionally, an engineering calculation method is provided for unusual
21 cases. While not apparent, these guidelines are valid only for 60 Hz type frequencies. Elec-
22 trical conductors have increased Joule heating with higher frequency operation because of
23 electromagnetic effects like skin and proximity effects and the increase of total reactance of
24 conductors and appliances.
25 Until now, those effects have not been a fire safety concern, but the large increase in
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high power applications using frequencies higher than 60 Hz in variable frequency drives
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(VFD), also called adjustable frequency drives (AFD) or simply ”AC drives”, to control the
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operation of large motors, changes this.
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30 While research has improved the performance of motors and AC drives, there has been
31 relatively little research on the thermal effects and fire safety implications of these systems.
32 In this paper we show that conductors used for variable frequency power electronics have
33 heat dissipation much larger than what is calculated according to the standard formulas used
34 for 60 Hz systems.
35 This paper presents a model to understand the thermal behavior of electrical conductors
36 operated at variable voltage frequencies and shapes. The accelerated aging effects on the
37 insulation are also discussed.
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40 Keywords electric conductor · variable frequency drive · overheating · signal shape · power
41 factor
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1 1 Introduction
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3 As electrical usage increases in industry, commercial buildings, and homes, it is not surpris-
4
ing that a high percentage of fires are caused by electrical failures [1]. Our current power
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systems are often designed for operating frequencies of 60 or 50 Hz. Large quantities of
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power can be distributed and delivered to equipment and appliances using relatively small
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spaces with acceptable efficiency. In most cases, the fire safety issues have been localized on
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terminals, appliances, equipment or other locations where arcs can be generated. Research
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and understanding of arc failure is detailed in [2] and [3].
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It is also well known that the thermal degradation of the conductor insulation is an-
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other safety issue. Insulation damage is a problem because of arcing across live conductors
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and possible thermal ignition of combustible materials. Currently, a temperature threshold
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for most thermoplastic insulation with constant electric loads in conductors is approximately
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75 ◦ C. Above 75 ◦ C, common thermoplastic electrical insulation suffers accelerated degra-
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dation that leads to early decomposition and loss of the insulating properties. Although some
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17 wire insulation materials are permitted to heat up to 90 ◦ C, they are not typical, and usually
18 connect to other parts of the electrical system that are rated up to 75 ◦ C.
19 The use of standard methods for sizing wires works well for conductors operating at low
20 frequency (60 Hz or lower). For example, the selection of suitable conductors can be done
21 easily following the methods shown in [4]. In most cases, thermal behavior of conductors
22 can be modeled using a simple heat transfer analysis, with constant or lumped heat genera-
23 tion by Joule’s effect in the interior of the wire. For these cases, the 60 Hz frequency does
24 not represent an unusual load, except for the largest conductors.
25 For larger conductors, models like the Neher-McGrath model [5], are very useful. Other
26 work discuss special circumstances and applications [6] [7] [8] [9]. Some of these models
27 are more general and can be used for frequencies other than 60 Hz, but data and parameters
28 to use these models are still focused around 60 Hz [10]. None of these models has been
29 fully developed for calculating the thermal behavior of real conductors, particularly when
30 considering the effect of using signals different from sinusoidal. A significant amount of
31 previous research has taken place for specific industrial applications, focusing on the behav-
32 ior of groups of cables in trays or underground, and considering the heat generation of each
33 cable as known at 50 or 60 Hz.
34 In contrast with this, several parts of our current power systems do not operate at the 50
35 or 60 Hz frequencies. The adoption of new technologies such as AC drives and Pulse Width
36 Modulation (PWM) demands a wide range of operating frequencies, and in most cases, these
37 systems are not driven sinusoidally. In spite of these changes, designs and installations for
38 the electrical power system use the same assumptions and methods that are used for a simple
39 sinusoidal signal frequency at 50 or 60 Hz.
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42 2 Theoretical basis
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44 The main cause of heat generation in the conductor is dissipation of energy according to
45 Joule’s Law:
46 P = R · I2 (1)
47 where P is the total power dissipation, R is the effective electrical resistance of the conductor
48 and I is the effective electrical current in the conductor. Although this is a very simple equa-
49 tion, the parameters in it must be modeled appropriately to account for the actual physical
50 processes taking place in the electrical system.
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Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation 3

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14 Fig. 1 Representation of a three-phase electric system
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17 The heat generation of circuits in direct current (DC), or low frequency alternating cur-
18 rent (60 Hz - AC), may be calculated reliably using literature values for R and I, as is
19 commonly done for most industrial, commercial, and home electrical installations. But in
20 power systems with large quantities of power electronic control devices, the resistance and
21 electric current can vary significantly from the nominal values, causing differences in heat
22 generation rates that in most of the cases are much higher than what is calculated using
23 nominal values of R and I.
24 In general, the resistance in a metallic conductor has a temperature variation [11] [12]
25 [13] and is dependent on geometrical properties of the conductor such as the total length and
26 the cross-sectional area of the wire [14].
27 When the electromagnetic fields in a conductor vary with time, voltages and currents
28 will also vary in a way to induce a so called ”skin effect”. Depending on the geometric
29 configuration of groups of conducting wires, there is also a ”proximity effect”, as is shown
30 in [15] [16] [17].
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For different electric wave forms (other than sine waves), Fourier’s decomposition can
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be used to describe the signal and operation. Using Fourier decomposition the wave form
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can be broken down into harmonic components.
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35 Codes like NFPA 70 (National Electrical Code) [4] have worked to establish simple
36 calculation methods for specifying wires. It is typical to find a mix of considerations based
37 on techniques previously described, and certain safety factors that consider the worst possi-
38 ble condition. Interestingly, the codes generally do not consider the effects that we discuss
39 in this paper.
40 A representation using a simple circuit helps to clarify the fundamental problem. The
41 problem of interest is a common industrial three-phase system (figure 1). The three-phase
42 system is capable of handling three circuits for the same load and delivers three times the
43 total power of a single mono-phase circuit.
44 In each three-phase industrial circuit there are three one-phase circuits, each one with at
45 least one connection cable to the load. This circuit, presented in figure 2, avoids all parts of
46 the motor connections that do not have any effect on our current analysis, so it is not a con-
47 nection diagram, but is instead a reference circuit for analysis. Here we use only one phase
48 of the three-phase circuit of connection. The main source of power delivers a sinusoidal
49 signal of voltage with 60 Hz (or 50 Hz for Europe). In most industrial and commercial ap-
50 plications in the United States, a three-phase source is often used with either 460-480 volts
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Fig. 2 Representation of schematic circuit with a Variable Frequency Drive and motor.
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16 or 208 volts between phases. The 460-480 volts system is more typical in systems with large
17 motors.
18 This voltage signal passes through the VFD and is converted into a square signal of
19 voltage with pulse width modulated (PWM), as is represented in figure 2. The specific ex-
20 planation about how VFD converts sinusoidal AC signals to square signals can be found in
21 [18] [19]. In view of the fact that the VFDs have become ubiquitous for the control of large
22 motors, continuous improvement has been developed for them, but the main issue, for the
23 purpose of this work is the use of square signals at high frequencies with pulse width mod-
24 ulation (PWM). A description of the latest changes, existing circuit topologies, and future
25 trends in VFDs, can be found in [20].
26 In industrial and commercial applications, the circuit shown in figure 2 can be modeled
27 using resistors and inductors to build an equivalent motor circuit. The behavior of the trans-
28 mission line is our interest for this analysis. Although it is known that the VFD produces
29 harmonic distortion reflected toward the entire electrical system behind it, this is not in the
30 scope of our current research, because this distortion is mitigated in what is considered a
31 semi-infinite electrical bus, and the only noticeable effects are seen in the quality of energy
32 in the network. The cables that are after the VFD (toward the final charge) have no such
33 mitigation by the semi-infinite bus, and the final effect is wire overheating.
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The equivalent circuits after the VFD are shown in figure 3(a) and 3(b), where R1, X1,
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Rc, Xm, X2 and R2 shown in figure 3(a) are design parameters of the motor and depend
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strongly on its manufacturing and construction. Notice that R2 is divided by s, that is the
37
38 ”slip of electromagnetic fields” between the stator and the rotor inside the motor, so the total
39 quantity R2/s is variable with the ”slip”. Additional details about this model of induction
40 motor and improvements that are currently considered, can be found in [21].
41 The important point here, as is shown in figure 3(a), is that the totality of the inductance
42 of this circuit is in the motor and can be considered constant, because it depends only on
43 geometrical characteristics in the motor. The variations in the circuit will be determined
44 by the resistance, principally in two points, first, the equivalent factor R2/s that is only an
45 electrical representation of the mechanical load in the motor, second, the parameter R for
46 the conductor under analysis in this research.
47 For steady state, the slip, s, can be considered to be constant for induction motors, so
48 that the parameter R2/s only varies when a transient state affects the motor. This transient
49 state can be generated only by variations of physical load in the motor shaft, or by electrical
50 variations in the VFD in handling partial loads or partial speeds. On the other hand, the
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Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation 5

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Fig. 3 Equivalent circuits with an induction motor after the VFD
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14 parameter R will vary with the frequency of the VFD, the electric current response in the
15 circuit, and internal temperature.
16 The circuit of figure 3(a), can be reduced and expressed also using the equivalent Thevenin
17 impedance of the induction motor, that can be considered a physical parameter which can
18 be meassured directly in the input connection of the motor. This Thevenin impedance will
19 be dependent also on the physical conditions in the motor. The result will be a Thevenin
20 resistance Rth plus a Thevenin reactance Xth .
21 The total inductance of the motor Lt will be strongly related to all the inductances
22 showed in figure 3(a) and will produce one Thevenin inductive reactance for each frequency.
23 As previously explained, the total inductance can be assumed to be constant. The total re-
24 sistance of the motor will be the Thevenin resistance Rth , that can be considered variable
25 only with changes of the load condition in the motor. This representative resistance in the
26 motor could also be considered constant for steady state conditions. Most of the Rth value
27 represents mechanical load and losses that are not functions of electrical parameters. Only
28 electrical losses inside the motor are functions of electrical parameters, and they can be as-
29 sumed as additional conductor losses. With these considerations, the final simplified circuit
30 is shown in figure 3(b).
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We are focussed on the cable that is represented by resistance R, but the behavior of
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this cable must consider the electrical effects of its final load, that is the induction motor.
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The model of the cable can also contain an equivalent inductance, but since this inductance
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is not appreciable in comparison with the inductance of the final load, it is not necessary to
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complicate the model with that parameter. This R is the same resistance presented previously
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37 in equation 1. The current passing through this R is the I presented in equation 1, and it
38 depends strongly of the behavior and characteristics of the motor or final load.
39 The heat gain inside of the VFD has been modeled by [22]. Some behavior, in terms
40 of heat gain for certain motors (not all), have been studied by [23] and some manufacturers
41 have taken care of this, including new components and techniques for protecting the motors.
42 The current consideration is that the power in the outlet of the VFD is nearly the same power
43 at the inlet of the motor, which implies that no significant power is dissipated in the line, and
44 the resistance in the line is much less than that in the motor.
45 The resistance, R, in the conductor considers the behavior of intrinsic electrical parame-
46 ters, as is presented and explained by [24], for power dissipation in wires. This is shown in
47 equation 2, and in this equation ρo is the resistivity of the conductor at temperature To , α is
48 the function of thermal increase, Ae is the effective transverse area for each possible current
49 I in the conductor, T is the actual temperature in the conductor and z is the total length of
50 conductor.
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6 ,

1
2 Z z
ρo
Z zZ T
ρo · α
3 R= dl + dT · dl (2)
0 Ae 0 To Ae
4
5 Although equation 2 leads to results for an equivalent resistance using parameters for a
6 specific sinusoidal frequency, it is also possible to use it when considering a Fourier decom-
7 position.
8 For harmonic currents, there is a different R for each harmonic current Ii that we will call
9 Ri to refer specifically to one harmonic. The harmonic specific resistance is needed because
10 there is a different effective conduction cross-sectional area, Aei , for each harmonic current.
11 The functional form of the effective resistance Ri for each harmonic is presented in equation
12 2, but using Aei instead of Ae .
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15 3 Power dissipation modeling
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17 The wave generated by the VFD is a modulated square voltage signal. The square signal is
18 decomposed into a center of oscillation Vo and maximum value of the square shape Va . The
19 resultant equation for the voltage as a function of time t and angular frequency ω is
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21
4 ·Va 1 1 1 
22 v(t) = Vo + sin(ωt) + sin(3 · ωt) + sin(5 · ωt) + sin(7 · ωt) + . . . (3)
23 π 3 5 7
24 note that only odd harmonics are present, and they decrease in amplitude as:
25
26 V1
V (n) = (4)
27 n
28 where n is the number of the harmonic frequency and V1 is the amplitude of the first har-
29 monic at the angular frequency ω. The term Vo is the initial Fourier coefficient, is indepen-
30 dent of ω, and only depends on the center of oscillation of the wave.
31 While the voltage can be modeled with a straightforward decomposition, the current
32 depends on the components of the circuit. In our case, an equivalent circuit of the source
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(VFD) considering harmonics, is used, as is shown in figure 4(a) for harmonic currents or
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figure 4(b) for harmonic voltages. The voltage can be described with an equation similar to
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equation 3, but each harmonic current will need a different model.
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As is shown in figure 4(a), the total current can be modeled as the sum of all the harmonic
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currents
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39 n
40 I = I0 + I1 + I3 + I5 + . . . + In = ∑ Ii (5)
41 i=0
42 where ”n” is the number of the harmonic of current, and similar to voltage, I0 represents the
43 center of oscillation of the current wave. Each one of these harmonic currents will be asso-
44 ciated with a specific frequency, and each one will be the specific response of the circuit to a
45 voltage at that frequency. This equation works also for models with pair and odd harmonic
46 currents where ”n” will be a positive integer up to ∞.
47 Including the prior definition of I in equation 1, we will have
48
49 n

50 P = R · ∑ Ii2 (6)
i=0
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Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation 7

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Fig. 4 Equivalent circuits for harmonic analysis
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17 where this equation still regards the resistance of the conductor using a single equivalent
18 resistance.
19 Including the harmonic effect into the definition of power dissipation, we get:
20
21 n Z z n Z zZ T
ρo ρo · α
22 P = ∑ Ii2 dl + ∑ Ii2 dT · dl (7)
i=0 0 Ae i i=0 0 To Ae i
23
24 The effective area, Aei , is dependent on the current frequency (ωi ), resistivity (ρ), relative
25 permeability (µr ), and permeability of space (µ). (equations 8 and 9)
26
27 Aei = πδi · [2rmax − δi ] (8)
28
29 s  T


Z
30 δi = ρ = ρo 1 + αdT (9)
31 ωi µr µ To
32 where δi is an approximation for the depth of penetration of the electromagnetic signal in
33 a conductor (in our case the current). The effective area differs from the true cross-sectional
34 area because of the skin effects that arise from periodically driven current [25] [26].
35
The only unknown function to complete the model is the current. In theory, it is com-
36
posed of an infinite number of harmonic currents, as was shown in equation 5. In many
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models coefficients following the pattern of equation 4 are used, because the reactive ele-
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ments are neglected in the circuit.
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For this problem, the reactance in the circuit can not be ignored because the final load is
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really an inductive load. To model the response of the circuit in terms of harmonic currents,
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we use the concept shown in figure 4(a), that is basically a superposition theorem, with the
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simplified circuit of the motor shown in figure 3(b). We can write an equation for the effect
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of each harmonic frequency in the circuit, considering the changes in the line because of Ri
44
that depends on the frequency, the temperature and the actual characteristics of the induction
45
motor.
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47 Each harmonic current is a response to each harmonic voltage. Using simple circuit laws
48 for each one of the harmonics of voltage, the corresponding current obeys a relationship that
49 in the time domain is:
dii (t)
50 vi (t) = Ri · i(t) + Rth · ii (t) + Lt (10)
dt
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8 ,

1 In transforming to the frequency domain the equation is


2
3 Vi = Ri · Ii + Rth · Ii + jωi · Lt · Ii (11)
4
5 where can be found the response of current in the model for each harmonic
6
7 Vi
Ii = (12)
8 Ri + Rth + jωi · Lt
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10 Equation 12 defines the harmonic currents. Notice that when jωi or Lt are negligible (very
11 low frequency or very low inductance respectively), the shape of the current wave will be the
12 same as the voltage because all parameters are real, but when jωi and Lt are non negligible
13 (or negligible Ri and Rth ), the shape of the current will be more triangular (for a square
14 wave voltage input) because of the imaginary quantity jωi . Notice that there is no case with
15 moderate reactance that the shape of the current is sinusoidal. As our analysis is in the wire
16 and this part of the circuit is a resistance, each harmonic current interacts with a different Ri
17 and generates heat regardless of the phase difference between the current components.
18 In all practical cases the parameters in equation 12 are known. The more harmonics i
19 are used, the more accurate is the simulation. To complete the description and mathematical
20 model of power dissipation, it is necessary to include the behavior of the power once it is
21 transformed to heat. To model the thermal effects, an internal volumetric heat generation g000
22 is defined. For this purpose:
23 R z ρo R z R T ρo ·α
24 P ∑ni=0 Ii2 0 Aei dl + ∑ni=0 Ii2 0 To Aei dT · dl
000
25 g = = Rz (13)
∨w Aw · 0 dl
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or
27
Ii2 ρo + TTo ρo αdT
R 
n
28 000
g =∑ (14)
29 i=0 Aw · Ae i
30 where ∨w is the volume of the wire and Aw is the total cross-sectional area of this cylindrical
31 volume.
32 The governing equations of heat transfer for an electric wire can be expressed (figure 5)
33 as
34 ∂ Tc kc ∂

∂ Tc

35 ρc cc = g000 + 2 r2 0 < r < Rc conductor (15)
∂t r ∂r ∂r
36
37 ∂ Tins kins ∂

∂ Tins

38 ρins cins = 2 r2 Rc < r < Rins insulation (16)
∂t r ∂r ∂r
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40
∂ T 
41 −k = h T(Rins ) − T∞ convection (17)
∂ r Rins

42
43 where ρ represents density, T represents temperature, c represents specific heat, k represents
44 thermal conductance, r represents the radius from the center of the conductor, h represents
45 the convection heat transfer coefficient and g000 is the internal heat generation. The sub-
46 index c means that is a property in the metallic conductor, the sub-index ins means that is a
47 property in the insulation and ∞ means that is a property in free air or ambient. The term Rc
48 is the outside radius of the metallic conductor and Rins is the outside radius of the insulation.
49 To simplify the analysis, we use a lumped approximation for the conductor and the
50 insulation. This approximation is justified for a very high heat generation rate when the
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Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation 9

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14 Fig. 5 Representation of heat transfer for a cylindrical electrical wire
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17 conductor and insulation temperatures are much larger than the ambient temperature. Under
18 this approximation, we use effective properties
19
20

hmci = mc c + mc ins (18)
21
22
23
24 hρci∨Tot = ρc ∨ c + ρc ∨ ins (19)
25
26
∨ c

∨ ins


27 hρ c = ρc c + ρc ins (20)
28 ∨Tot ∨Tot
29 where ∨ represents volume and the sub-index Tot in it means that it refers to the total volume
30 of wire including conductor and insulation.
31 In this approximation
32
33 ∂ Tw ·p
S
34 hρ ∗ c = g000 − (T − T∞ ) (21)
∂t Aw
35 S
36 where represents the overall heat transfer coefficient, p is the perimeter and Aw is the
37 sectional area of the entire wire.
38 In steady state
39 (T − T∞ ) Aw
40 g000 = 000
000
with Rtherm =S (22)
Rtherm ·p
41
000
where Rtherm is a theoretical thermal resistance with units of ( ◦ K · m3 /W ) that includes the
42
43 effects of thermal resistances of the conductor, insulation and convection.
44 Using equations 2 (for each harmonic), 8, 9, 12, 14 and 22, we build a model that is
45 easily programmed to calculate the power dissipation and temperatures in cables between
46 a VFD and induction motors. The results show power dissipation and temperatures higher
47 than what is calculated with models that use the nominal current of the motor, and other
48 nominal conditions for circuits in 60 Hz. In each case, the behavior depends of the specific
49 parameters of the circuit, Ri , Rth , jwi and Lt , and the shape of the voltage signal delivered
50 by the VFD.
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10 ,

1 4 Motor electrical characterization


2
3
Each motor has a particular energy consumption profile when it is connected to a power cir-
4
cuit. For example, two different brands of 50 horsepower motors can demand very different
5
current profiles when connected to the same circuit. These characteristics can also change
6
with aging.
7
The mechanical efficiency in the motor defines how much real power the motor delivers
8
in the shaft in comparison with the real power that is electrically present in the internal circuit
9
of the motor. If Pm is the total real power in the circuit of the motor, Psha f t the nominal power
10
in the shaft, and Plosses the total power in mechanical losses, the mechanical efficiency of the
11
motor is defined by
12
13 Psha f t Pm − Plosses
14 η= = (23)
Pm Pm
15
16 As was explained earlier, the motor can be represented by a circuit with a resistor Rth
17 and an inductor Lt (cf. Fig 3b). All the real power in the circuit of the motor, is present in
18 the equivalent resistor Rth . The difference in power between Pm and Psha f t is associated with
19 all the mechanical losses in the motor (friction and heat) [27].
20 The inductor Lt also affects the behavior of the power in the motor. This effect is called
21 the ”power factor”. As the inductor is a reactive load, it produces an increase in total electric
22 power at the input of the motor because of the angle phase difference between current and
23 voltage. This means that in the time domain, the voltage signal is not applied at the same time
24 as the current signal, and the cause of this effect is the time-delayed electromagnetic field
25 in the inductances within the motor. The real power only exists when voltage and current
26 signals are in phase. Although this effect of phase difference does not produce heat by itself,
27 the increase of current in the circuit because of a low power factor can produce more heat in
28 all the electrical resistances physically present in the circuit.
29 To model the power factor in a motor, it is necessary to know that the total amount of
30 ”electric power” at the input of the motor is the complex sum of the real power Pm dissipated
31 in the equivalent Thevenin resistance in the motor Rth plus the ”reactive power” Qm present
32 in the equivalent inductance of the motor Lt . This power is electrical, and is usually called
33 ”apparent power” or ”complex power” [28]. The absolute value of this complex power in the
34 motor, will be higher with increments of Qm for the same real power Pm . It can be calculated
35 as the product of total values of real effective current and effective voltage present in the
36 circuit. As the maximum voltage is regulated by the source, the only factor that changes is
37 the effective current in the circuit, obtaining higher currents for lower power factors. This
38 complex power is represented by Sm , and its effective value is
39 q
40 Sm = Pm2 + Q2m (24)
41
42 with
43 Pm = Rth · I 2 Qm = ω · Lt · I 2 (25)
44
45 then, the power factor is defined as:
46 Pm
47 pf = (26)
Sm
48
49 The Rth inside the motor is composed mostly by a ”virtual resistance” that is a model to
50 represent the mechanical power in the shaft Psha f t . If for any reason the current increases, this
51
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60
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Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation 11

1 ”virtual resistor” will decrease to keep the nominal power in the shaft constant (conservation
2
of energy). A small part of this Rth inside the motor, is the internal wiring, and this part is
3
a real electrical resistance, with its own electrical parameters but none significant compared
4
with the resistance model of the power in the shaft.
5
For all wires, the resistance has a value depending on equation 2. If the current increases
6
7 because of a low power factor, the real power will also increase in the wire and become
8 heat generation following equation 7. When a VFD is used, a small decay in power factor
9 has a big increase in heat generation, much more than what is normally expected in systems
10 operated sinusoidally at 60Hz.
11 Typically in industry, manufactures do not specify the values of the resistance and in-
12 ductance of the motor, but specify the ”power factor” and ”efficiency” of the motor. With
13 these parameters they can completely describe the electro-mechanical model of the motor.
14 Typical induction motors up to 100 horsepower commonly have mechanical efficiencies of
15 0.85 and power factors of 0.85. In motors over 100 horsepower, the efficiency is better, typi-
16 cally 0.9. Motors with higher efficiencies (above 0.9) are considered high efficiency motors.
17 The power factor basically describes the distribution between the equivalent resistance, Rth ,
18 and equivalent inductance, Lt , for any particular motor in operation.
19
20
21
5 Accelerated insulation aging
22
23
24 The conductor material used in all the simulations is copper, with wires specified with AWG
25 (American Wire Gauge) descriptions, and common thermoplastic insulation THWN (Ther-
26 moplastic heat and wet resistant nylon jacket) regulated for use at maximum 75 ◦ C (167 ◦ F)
27 of operation temperature, under NFPA-70 (National Electrical Code). The ambient tempera-
28 ture is 30 ◦ C (86 ◦ F), and the wires are assumed to be in free air without forced convection,
29 with an approximate convective heat transfer coefficient calculated by the Nusselt number
30 (NuD ) for each conductor (shown in tables). For the function of thermal increase α we will
31 use an average value of (0.00323/ ◦C) for copper [4].
32 The main reason to maintain the lowest possible temperature in the wire insulation is to
33 prevent accelerated aging of the wire insulation. Common THWN thermoplastic insulations
34 on electric wires are composed of PVC with plasticizers and other additives. As noted by
35 Babrauskas, the thermo-chemical characteristics of pure PVC do not necessarily correspond
36 to the thermo-chemical characteristics of the thermoplastic insulation on wires [29]. The
37 thermal degradation for thermoplastic wire insulation starts earlier than for pure PVC, at
38 onset temperatures as low as 60 ◦ C [30] [31] [32] with a process of dehydrochlorination
39 and loss of plasticizers. A consequence of the plasticizer loss is the development of micro
40 voids and microscopic cavities that can serve as channels for humidity transport and cause
41 short circuits or electrical breakdowns [33]. Gumargalieva et al [32] show that for low
42 temperature PVC insulation samples there can be over 50% loss in plasticizers (dioctyl-
43 phthalate) and comparable reductions in elongation at break over a thirty year wire life.
44 When the onset temperature is reached on the wire, the aging time is converted to equiv-
45 alent lifetime in-service by an Arrhenius type reactive step. Experimental research has been
46 conducted by [31] in thermal characterization of PVC cable insulation materials, showing
47 that when wires are over 60 ◦ C an increase of 5 ◦ C in the temperature of the wire reduces
48 its lifetime more than 60%, and an increase of 10 ◦ C reduces the lifetime of the wire more
49 than 80%. The authors also indicate that at temperatures over 80 ◦ C the plasticizer loss in
50 the insulation is too large to a reliably simulate. The aging model [31] is:
51
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53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
12 ,

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19 Fig. 6 Waves of current with different switching frequencies in the VFD for the same 75Hp induction motor
20
21
22 (EA )(T2 −T1 )
t1
23 = e KB T1 T2 (27)
24 t2
25 where t1 is time of accelerated aging at absolute temperature T1 , t2 is the normal service
26 lifetime at absolute temperature T2 , KB is the Boltzman factor, and EA is the activation energy
27 determined by the authors (157.6 - 197.1 kJ/mol). In the next section equation 27 is used
28 to find the reduction in lifetime associated with an increase in insulation temperature from a
29 nominal value (T2 ) to a higher value (T1 ).
30 Different values of onset temperatures have been reported in experimental tests with
31 commercial thermoplastic wire insulation. In [34], the author indicates that significant plas-
32 ticizer loss occurred in eight different types of special heating wires with thermoplastic
33 PVC insulation when held at 71 to 77 ◦ C for approximately 1 month. All the cited research
34 suggest that the temperature classification for PVC thermoplastic electrical wires is not con-
35 servative in NFPA-70. The International Electrotechnical Commission indicates a maximum
36 operation temperature of 70 ◦ C for PVC thermoplastic insulated cables in IEC 60502 [35].
37
38
39 6 Simulation results
40
41 Simulations have been conducted to show how the general thermal behavior changes with
42 the choice of parameters. The electric circuit can be modeled in matlab-simulink to obtain
43 the electrical behavior of the current signals depending on the voltage signal forms. Using
44 the equivalent circuit shown in figure 4b and equation 12 the current is shown in figures
45 6(a) and 6(b), for an induction motor of 75 horsepower with 0.85 power factor and 85%
46 mechanical efficiency driven by a VFD at two different switching frequencies. The result
47 shows how the higher switching frequency has fewer harmonic currents, and the whole
48 wave is more like a sine wave at 60 Hz [36].
49 For the calculation of heat generated in the wire and the wire temperature, a simple
50 computational algorithm using equations 2, 8, 9, 12, 14 and 22, is shown in figure 7.
51
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55
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58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation 13

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24 Fig. 7 Algorithm of calculus for actual heat generation and temperature in wires with diferent shapes of wave
25 and high frequencies
26
27
28 Using a three-phase motor rated at 75 horsepower with 460 nominal volts, power factor
29 0.85, and mechanical efficiency 0.85, the recommended wire for use in free air is # 4 AWG.
30 We first calculate the internal heat generated by this cable under nominal conditions of 60Hz
31 frequency and sinusoidal shape (no harmonics). The nominal RMS current for this motor is
32 97.16 amperes, the nominal calculated resistance of the copper (at 23 ◦ C) per linear meter
33 of wire is 8.5106 · 10−4 Ω /m. The ”nominal calculated internal generation of heat”, is 295.7
34 kW /m3 and the maximum temperature attained for this nominal condition was 70 ◦ C.
35 When we introduce a VFD to the circuit of this motor, the internal heat generation
36 increases more than 15% (∆ g000 ), also increasing the temperature. In table 1 are the results
37 for some of the most common switching frequencies (sw.freq) in the VFD. Here we also
38 show the effects of different factors, compared to the values for nominal conditions at 60
39 Hz with a sine wave. We define an additional parameter to show the trend of increase of the
40 resistance in the wire with the frequency. We named it ”comparative resistance” Rcom . This
41 Rcom is calculated considering the absolute values of all harmonics for each actual condition
42 of I and P using equations 5 and 7:
43
44 P
Rcom = (28)
45 I2
46 This factor is compared to the nominal resistance of the wire.
47 In table 1, note the behavior of current in the circuit that feeds the 75 HP motor with
48 different switching frequencies (sw.freq) of the VFD. With higher switching frequencies
49 the sum of all the harmonic currents decreases and the effective current approaches to the
50 nominal 97.16 amperes for this motor. This difference in total current relative to the nominal
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
14 ,

1 Table 1 Heat disipation in wires of a 75HP/460V/3-ph motor with VFD, 0.85 p.f., 0.85 eff, NuD = 2.35
2
3 sw.freq.(Hz) g000 (kW /m3 ) %∆ g000 ∑ Ii (amp) %∆ I Rcom (Ω · 10−4 ) %∆ R T ( ◦C)
4 1440 343.7 16.23% 107.32 10.46% 8.26 -2.94% 76.9
5 2880 341.5 15.49% 102.27 5.26% 9.04 6.23% 76.6
6 4320 341.1 15.35% 100.58 3.52% 9.34 9.75% 76.6
7 5760 340.9 15.29% 99.74 2.66% 9.49 11.52% 76.5
8
9
Table 2 Heat disipation in wires of a 75HP/460V/3-ph motor with VFD, 0.75 p.f., 0.85 eff, NuD = 2.35
10
11 sw.freq.(Hz) g000 (kW /m3 ) %∆ g000 ∑ Ii (amp) %∆ I Rcom (Ω · 10−4 ) %∆ R T ( ◦C)
12
1440 459.1 55.26% 118.22 21.68% 9.09 9.82% 92.7
13 2880 457.6 54.75% 114.19 17.53% 9.71 14.10% 92.5
14 4320 457.3 54.65% 112.85 16.15% 9.93 16.69% 92.4
15 5760 457.2 54.62% 112.18 15.46% 10.05 18.10% 92.4
16
17
18 value is shown in tables as a percentage of the nominal current (%∆ I). It is important not to
19 confuse this parameter with the effective harmonic current or the total harmonic distortion,
20 which are parameters used in other models of quality of energy, where the resistance of the
21 wire is considered constant for all the harmonics. With higher switching frequencies, there
22 are less harmonic components in the circuit current. On the other hand the resistance in the
23
wire increases with higher switching frequencies. This behavior is shown in the parameter
24
Rcom , compared as a percentage of the nominal resistance (%∆ R). As the power dissipation
25
depends on both, the current and the resistance, the increase of one factor compensates for
26
the decrease of the other in this frequency range. Observe that g000 and T are not significantly
27
affected by the variation of frequency in this range. The rise in the temperature of the wire
28
is nearly 7 ◦ C. The result suggests a reduction of nearly 70% in the lifetime of this cable.
29
For a cable with a nominal life of 30 years this acceleration would reduce the effective
30
life to 9 years. This does not suggest that a fire incident is imminent after the end of life.
31
Instead, it suggests that any mechanical or electrical stress to the wire would result in a
32
higher probability of a failure that could lead to a fire [32].
33
34 This is the range of common switching frequencies of actual VFDs. It is possible to also
35 observe that additional increases in the switching frequency do not significantly decrease
36 the heat dissipation rate.
37 For a motor of 75 horsepower, with similar conditions as the previous motor but only
38 changing the power factor to 0.75, the results and comparisons with nominal values are
39 shown in table 2. While a motor with a low power factor is initially less expensive, its cost
40 in terms of energy consumption is higher, and as described in section 4, the heat generation
41 increases tremendously.
42 With a decrease in power factor of only 11.76% compared to the previous motor, we
43 expect that the heat generation rate should increase no more than an additional 13%, but the
44 actual total increment of heat generation in the wire when a VFD is used to feed this motor
45 is in all cases over 50%. With the VFD, the harmonic currents generated increases in the
46 same way as the fundamental current, so we have more effective current in the circuit, and
47 the equivalent resistance in the conductor is higher with each additional harmonic. Table 2
48 shows the results for this case. The temperature in the wire is over 90 ◦ C for this condition,
49 which is associated with insulation damage, very large decomposition rates, and extremely
50 fast degradation.
51
52
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60
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64
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Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation 15

1 Table 3 Heat disipation in wires of a 50HP/460V/3-ph motor with VFD, 0.85 p.f., 0.85 eff, NuD = 1.99
2
3 sw.freq.(Hz) g000 (kW /m3 ) %∆ g000 ∑ Ii (amp) %∆ I Rcom (Ω · 10−4 ) %∆ R T ( ◦C)
4 1440 371.4 13.58% 71.54 10.45% 12.84 -4.36% 68.7
5 2880 369.2 12.91% 68.19 5.28% 14.05 3.84% 68.4
6 4320 368.7 12.75% 67.07 3.55% 14.51 7.24% 68.4
7 5760 368.5 12.69% 66.50 2.67% 14.75 9.02% 68.4
8
9 Table 4 Heat disipation in wires of a 50HP/460V/3-ph motor with VFD, 0.75 p.f., 0.85 eff, NuD = 1.99
10
11 sw.freq.(Hz) g000 (kW /m3 ) %∆ g000 ∑ Ii (amp) %∆ I Rcom (Ω · 10−4 ) %∆ R T ( ◦C)
12 1440 492.4 50.58% 78.83 21.71% 14.01 3.55% 81.3
13 2880 490.9 50.12% 76.15 17.57% 14.97 10.64% 81.1
14 4320 490.6 50.03% 75.25 16.18% 15.32 13.23% 81.1
15 5760 490.5 50.00% 74.80 15.49% 15.50 14.56% 81.1
16
17
18 Similar evaluations have been conducted for a motor of 50 horsepower operating at 460
19 nominal volts, with a power factor 0.85, and a mechanical efficiency 0.85. The nominal RMS
20 current for this motor in this condition is 64.77 amperes, and the recommended wire is #6
21 AWG in free air. The nominal resistance of copper per linear meter of wire is 13.5333 · 10−4
22 Ω /m, the nominal calculated internal generation of heat is 327 kW /m3 , and the maximum
23 temperature attained for this nominal condition was 64 ◦ C. The results when a VFD is used
24 are shown in table 3. In table 4, are shown results for a motor with 50 horsepower operated
25 at 460 nominal volts, but with power factor of 0.75. It can be noticed again how the low
26 power factor affects heat generation, with increases near 50% in heat generation rate. For
27 this motor, the small diameter wire produces higher convective heat transfer coefficient and
28 less skin effects, but the temperature increase is still noticeable when the VFD is used.
29 Motors above 100 horsepower usually have better mechanical efficiencies (near 90% or
30 above). This helps these motors have lower heat generation rates in the wires and within the
31 motor, but they are still affected by harmonic products associated with the VFD and power
32 electronics. In table 5 are shown results for a 125 horsepower motor operated at 460 nominal
33 volts, a power factor of 0.85, and mechanical efficiency of 0.9. The nominal RMS current
34 for this motor in this condition is 152.93 amperes, and the recommended wire is #1 AWG
35 in free air. The resistance of copper wire per linear meter of wire is 4.2443 · 10−4 Ω /m (at
36 23 ◦ C), and the nominal calculated internal generation of heat is 179 kW /m3 . The temper-
37 ature achieved in the wires, considering similar ambient factors as was considered for the
38 previous motors, in nominal conditions (without VFD) is 70 ◦ C. The actual results for heat
39 generation rate and temperature, considering effects of harmonics and increases in effective
40 resistance because of the VFD are shown in table 5. We also present the results for a motor
41 with 125 horsepower and 0.9 of mechanical efficiency, but with a low power factor of 0.75,
42 in table 6. Temperatures above 90 ◦ C are attained. The useful life of the wire is reduced
43 more than 95% from 70 ◦ C to 90 ◦ C, using equation 27. This represents a significant fire
44 hazard when wires with PVC thermoplastic insulation are used with VFDs.
45
46
47 7 Conclusions
48
49 In this work, a model has been developed that can be used to calculate actual heat dissipation
50 and temperature in wires for arbitrary voltage signals fed into an electric motor. The model
51
52
53
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59
60
61
62
63
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65
16 ,

1 Table 5 Heat disipation in wires of a 125HP/460V/3-ph motor with VFD, 0.85 p.f., 0.90 eff, NuD = 2.88
2
3 sw.freq.(Hz) g000 (kW /m3 ) %∆ g000 ∑ Ii (amp) %∆ I Rcom (Ω · 10−4 ) %∆ R T ( ◦C)
4 1440 208.7 16.59% 168.89 10.44% 4.13 -2.59% 77.4
5 2880 207.1 15.70% 160.95 5.24% 4.52 6.60% 77.1
6 4320 206.8 15.53% 158.29 3.50% 4.66 9.91% 77.0
7 5760 206.6 15.42% 156.96 2.64% 4.74 11.79% 77.0
8
9
Table 6 Heat disipation in wires of a 125HP/460V/3-ph motor with VFD, 0.75 p.f., 0.90 eff, NuD = 2.88
10
11 sw.freq.(Hz) g000 (kW /m3 ) %∆ g000 ∑ Ii (amp) %∆ I Rcom (Ω · 10−4 ) %∆ R T ( ◦C)
12
1440 278.2 55.42% 185.95 21.25% 4.54 7.08% 93.3
13 2880 277.1 54.80% 179.62 17.45% 4.85 14.39% 93.0
14 4320 276.6 54.69% 177.50 16.07% 4.96 16.98% 93.0
15 5760 276.8 54.64% 176.45 15.38% 5.02 18.40% 93.0
16
17
18 can be used with any other kind of final load by only changing the equivalent circuit of the
19 motor to the desired load. It is important to remember that induction motors consume about
20 70% of the electrical power in the industrial sector [37]. Because of their extensive use, a
21 small increase in power dissipation in circuits with motors represents an important increase
22 in energy dissipation, and also an important safety issue in terms of heat generation and
23
fire risk. The degradation of electrical insulation in power conductors is an important safety
24
concern.
25
26 When induction motors are driven by Variable Frequency Drives (VFD), the energy
27 dissipation in the form of wire heating increases in different ways. When the motor has a
28 reasonable power factor (0.85 or above), and appropriate conditions for heat dissipation,
29 the average increase of heat transfer in wires is approximately 15% larger than values for
30 motors working at nominal conditions with 60 Hz and clean sinusoidal current. When the
31 motor has a lower power factor like 0.75, the increase in heat dissipation in wires can be
32 more than 50%. This large increase in heat dissipation rate is a result of a combination of the
33 reduction in the effective transverse area in the conductor for the electric current because of
34 high frequency harmonics, the increase of resistivity in the metal because of the increase in
35 temperature in the wire, and the higher values of each harmonic current. With larger wires,
36 there is an increase in heat dissipation rate. The actual heat dissipation and temperature
37 considering these effects, is in all cases much more than was expected and obtained with
38 calculations using the nominal conditions.
39 The power dissipation increases with each additional harmonic current in the circuit, and
40 also with the total resistance of the wire. The total resistance in the wire increases through
41 the resistivity, which is a function of the temperature in the wire, and with higher frequencies
42 because of harmonic effects. The reduction in heat generation in the wire is not perceptible
43 above 4 kHz of switching frequency. On the other hand, the instantaneous overvoltages in
44 the wire become very high with higher frequencies, which might stress the insulation with
45 electric pulses, in addition to the mechanical condition of degradation and loss of insulating
46 properties because of thermal effects.
47 Research is necessary to obtain appropriate fire safety solutions for electrical applica-
48 tions using power electronics. As shown in this paper, motors and electric loads that are fed
49 with non-sinusoidal voltage waves will induce increased heat generation in the connecting
50 wires. One simple solution to reduce thermal degradation for wires connected to induction
51
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Thermal Characterization of Electrical Wires and Insulation 17

1 motors controlled by VFDs is to increase the wire size to the motor by one AWG from the
2
current recommended size. With future developments of controllers for power electronics
3
further analysis and new fire safety solutions must be developed.
4
5
6
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