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IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Vol. 25, No.

3; June 2018 947

Comparative tests on RTV Silicone Rubber Coated

Porcelain Suspension Insulators in a Salt-Fog Chamber
S. Ilhan
Istanbul Technical University
Department of Electrical Engineering
34469 Maslak, Istanbul, Turkey

E. A. Cherney
University of Waterloo
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada

The development of leakage current on vertical and horizontal strings of RTV coated
porcelain suspension insulators in a salt-fog chamber are presented in this paper.
Strings comprising of three-units, fully coated, and bottom surface coated, are
investigated for leakage current development over a 1000 hour test period. The bottom
surface coated insulator strings are used to examine the merits of half-coated insulators
in comparison to fully coated insulator strings. Two coating formulations, containing
ground quartz in one system, and alumina trihydrate in the other, both at the same
filler level, are studied to determine whether filler type affects the development of
leakage current, flashover, and their ability to prevent erosion under dry-band arcing.
Index Terms — RTV insulator coatings, salt-fog testing, leakage current
development, filler type, material erosion

1 INTRODUCTION technical specifications require a 1000 hour salt-fog test with

the test criterion of no flashover and no erosion exposing the
TWO Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society glass or porcelain insulator around the insulator pin.
Committee papers have outlined the state-of-the-art use of
room temperature vulcanized (RTV) silicone rubber coatings Extensive studies on the erosion characteristics of silicone
for toughened glass and porcelain insulators [1, 2]. In the first rubber filled with either ATH or silica filler has demonstrated
paper, guidance is given in the specification of pre-coated very little difference in erosion when the filler level is at least
insulators while the second paper deals with the condition 50 wt% [4]. However, the time to a temporary loss of
assessment of coated insulators in the field and on the general hydrophobicity has not been investigated and under extreme
question of life and life extension of coated insulators. Future conditions of wetting and pollution, this is an important factor
problems with refurbishing or renewing silicone coating will as leakage current develops which gives rise to dry-band
be an industry concern, but so far several coatings have arcing, subsequent erosion of coating, and possible flashover.
demonstrated more than twenty years of service life in harsh In the salt-fog test with continuous wetting, the creepage
environment [1]. path of insulators is wetted-out easily particularly for
In this paper, a comparison is made of the leakage current horizontal strings, and leakage current develops very quickly.
development between coatings filled with either alumina tri- Vertical strings take more time to wet-out due to the protected
hydrate (ATH) or ground quartz (silica). In addition, the creepage path not being exposed directly to the salt fog.
leakage current development is compared between fully Coated insulators take some time to wet-out or temporarily
coated and half-coated insulators in support of greater use of loose hydrophobicity as this time depends on the rate at which
half-coated insulators; a concept that was first investigated in the low molecular weight (LMW) species are removed from
1993 [3]. the surface and on the rate at which the surface is replenished
with LMW species from the bulk of the coating. This latter
Although the field experience of RTV insulator coatings has
rate is dependent on the coating characteristics and often
been good everywhere and there has been no evidence to
referred to as the rate of return of hydrophobicity.
suggest that filler is an important factor in coating life, some
Therefore, the ability of a coating to resist the development
Manuscript received on 13 August 2017, in final form 5 March 2018, of leakage current is dependent on the make-up the LMW
accepted 6 March 2018. Corresponding author: S. Ilhan. species and on the porosity of the coating as this controls the

DOI: 10.1109/TDEI.2018.006968
948 S. Ilhan and E. A. Cherney: Comparative tests on RTV Silicone Rubber Coated Porcelain Suspension Insulators

rate of diffusion of LMW species to the surface. Coating Two strings comprising of five insulators, one horizontal and
porosity is dependent on the amount of filler and on the type one vertical are installed in the salt-fog chamber. Tension is
of filler as bonding of the filler to the silicone rubber depends applied to the horizontal string to keep the string from
on filler type [5]. sagging. Two insulators at the grounded end of the strings are
In this study, two coatings, having 53 ± 1wt% of ATH or used to isolate the tested three-unit strings from ground for
silica fillers, applied to insulators, are studied for the time to leakage current measurements. The arrangement of the
develop leakage current in salt-fog. The extent of the erosion vertical and horizontal strings is illustrated in Figure 2.
from dry-band arcing around the pin is also estimated, the
energy dissipated in dry band arcing for erosion is calculated, Data
and the maximum leakage current that develops is reported. Acquisition
The test method is an adaption of the IEC 62217 1000 hour
salt-fog test [6]. TERNA (the Italian TSO) has a modified test
procedure of IEC 62217 [6] for the RTV coated insulators [1]. String
The coated insulators in both horizontal and vertical 3-unit
strings are energized simultaneously at 30 kVrms from a
100kV/10kVA, 50 Hz transformer. The 30 kV test voltage was
selected based on the formulation, as given in [1]. The average Horizontal 50 Hz
electrical stress across the each insulator unit is around 350 String 10 kVA
Vrms/cm along the creepage distance. Leakage current on each Transformer
string is collected from a 30 Ω shunt resistor. Average,
effective, maximum and the harmonic content of the leakage
currents are captured and stored using a data acquisition
system with 10 kHz sampling frequency.


The salt-fog chamber is a stainless steel chamber with String
dimensions 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.3 m. Two IEC type nozzles are
mounted close to the bottom of the chamber spraying upwards
towards the ceiling of the chamber but not directly on to the
test strings. The salt water is prepared by using NaCl and de- Water
ionized water and stored in a 300 L tank. The salinity of the Horizontal Pump
salt-water is 40 g/L, which is selected based on the TERNA Water
specification [1]. The flow rate into the chamber by the two Salt-fog
nozzles is 0.2 L/m3.h using a pressure of 160 kPa per nozzle. Compressed
spray nozzles Air
The chamber has an 80 cm2 aperture for exhausting the
chamber. Stainless Steel Test Cell
Figure 2. Horizontal and vertical cuts of the 3-unit insulator strings in the salt-
2.2 TESTED INSULATORS fog chamber.
An experienced contractor in the application of RTV
coatings was employed to thoroughly clean and spray coat 2.3 RTV COATINGS EVALUATED
porcelain cap-and-pin suspension insulators of the type Two commercial RTV coating products were used. The
illustrated in Figure 1. The insulators are 255 mm diameter insulators were coated in the laboratory with the help of
(D), 146 mm connection length (H), and 280 mm creepage experienced technical staff. Specimens of the cured coatings
distance. were analysed in a scanning electron microscope with an
energy dispersive X-ray attachment to check that the coatings
contained only the specified filler types. After this, the filler
content in wt% was determined from measurements of the
specific gravity of the cured coatings. Thirteen cured samples
of each sample was used for this determination and the
summarized results are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Characteristics of the RTV coatings.

Specific St. Dev.
Filler Filler
Coating Gravity (g/cm3)
Type wt %
Coating S1 ATH 53.8 1.462 0.0144
Figure 1. Type U70B porcelain cap-and-pin suspension insulator. Coating S2 Silica 52.8 1.488 0.0112
IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Vol. 25, No. 3; June 2018 949

3 LEAKAGE CURRENT RESULTS For the horizontal strings, coating S2 is seen to develop
leakage current at about 640 hours into the test whereas
It is well known that the third harmonic of the leakage
coating S1 at about 80 hours. However, the vertical strings
current can be used as an indicator of the loss of
show no development of leakage current within the 1000 hour
hydrophobicity along the creepage path of an insulator, and
dry-band arcing, which is the onset of aging of silicone rubber
coatings [7]. The third harmonic of the leakage currents were b) Vertical strings
averaged over 1 h periods to observe the progression of the
leakage current with time. As soon as the dry-band arcing
initiates, a sudden increase in the leakage current is observed
as evident in the figures in the paper. The times to dry-band
Coating S2
arcing for the evaluated coatings were determined and
reported. Coating S1

RMS Leakage Current, mA

Dry-band arcing on one string caused very limited local
disturbances on the leakage current of the other string. The 0.6
change in the averaged current magnitude due to these
disturbances can be neglected.
Fully coated insulators are completely coated with RTV, 0.2
except for the metallic hardware. Figures 3 and 4, and Figures
5 and 6 show the development of the rms and the 3rd harmonic
rms currents for horizontal and vertical strings, respectively. 0
0 200 400 600 800 1000
a) Horizontal strings Time, hours
Figure 5. RMS current averaged over 1 h periods for vertical strings of fully
3 coated insulators.
Coating S2
RMS Leakage Current, mA

2.5 Coating S1
2 Coating S2
Coating S1
RMS Leakage Current, mA

1.5 0.06

No dry-band arcing
0 200 400 600 800 1000 0.02
Time, hours
Figure 3: RMS current averaged over 1 h periods for horizontal strings of
fully coated insulators. 0
0 200 400 600 800 1000
Time, hours
Coating S2 Figure 6. Third harmonic current averaged over 1 h periods for vertical
strings of fully coated insulators.
RMS Leakage Current, mA

Coating S1
0.6 Onset of
dry-band arcing 3.2 BOTTOM COATED INSULATORS
Bottom coated insulators have RTV coating applied to the
entire protected creepage distance which normally does not
include the pin cement, but in this case the cement was
0.2 inadvertently coated. However, this is a comparative study,
and all the insulators were coated in the same way. Coatings
do not adhere well to insulator cements and should not be
0 coated as leakage current may develop at the interface of the
0 200 400 600 800 1000 cement and the coating which may cause severe erosion.
Time, hours Figures 7 and 8, and Figures 9 and 10 show the development
Figure 4. Third harmonic current averaged over 1 h periods for horizontal of the rms and 3rd harmonic rms currents for horizontal and
strings of fully coated insulators. vertical strings, respectively.
950 S. Ilhan and E. A. Cherney: Comparative tests on RTV Silicone Rubber Coated Porcelain Suspension Insulators

a) Horizontal strings
2.5 Coating S1

RMS Leakage Current, mA

Coating S2 0.04
Coating S1
RMS Leakage Current, mA

1 No dry-band arcing
0 200 400 600 800 1000
0 Time, hours
0 200 400 600 800 1000
Time, hours Figure 10. Third harmonic current averaged over 1 h periods for the vertical
string of S-1 bottom coated insulators.
Figure 7. RMS current averaged over 1 h periods for horizontal strings of
bottom coated insulators.
Coatings that lose their hydrophobicity along the entire
creepage path of string insulators give rise to leakage current
and dry-band arcing. The time for development of leakage
Coating S1 current depends on the orientation of the insulator string and
RMS Leakage Current, mA

Onset of the rate at which the LMW fluid is removed from the surface
dry-band arcing by the continuous salt-fog impinging on the surface, and on
the rate at which the LMW fluid diffuses to the surface. Both
of these processes depend on the amount and distribution of
0.25 the LMW species, i.e. cyclic groups D3, D4, D5, etc. in the
coating and on the porosity of the coatings [5]. As not all
fillers bond chemically to the silicone rubber and some bond
only physically and weakly, pores develop in the silicone
rubber which aids in the diffusion rate. Silica filler is an
extending filler which bonds better than ATH to silicone
0 rubber and therefore can be expected to have fewer pores.
0 200 400 600 800 1000 If the distribution of LMW species can be assumed to be the
Time, hours same in both coatings, depletion can be expected to occur
Figure 8. Third harmonic current averaged over 1 h periods for the horizontal faster in the ATH filled coating evaluated, as compared to the
string of S1-bottom coated insulators. silica filled coating. Faster depletion will result in a shorter
time to dry-band arcing. Of course not all LMW species will
b) Vertical strings be lost, but the smaller species will be simply by the action of
the impinging salt-fog droplets and the higher species will take
2 more time to diffuse.
Coating S2 Table 2 shows the times to dry-band arcing for coated
RMS Leakage Current, mA

Coating S1 insulators in both vertical and horizontal string orientations.

1.5 The first observation is that no leakage current develops on the
fully coated insulators in vertical strings. The implication of
this is that the coating on the protected creepage path
1 maintains hydrophobicity preventing leakage current and dry-

Table 2. Time to dry-band arcing for coated insulators in vertical and

0.5 horizontal strings.
Time-to Dry Band Arcing (hours)
Coating S1 Horizontal Vertical
Fully Coated 80 >1000
0 Bottom Coated 60 >1000
0 200 400 600 800 1000
Time, hours Coating S2 Horizontal Vertical
Fully Coated 640 >1000
Figure 9. RMS current averaged over 1 h periods for vertical strings of
bottom coated insulators. Bottom Coated 210 860
IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Vol. 25, No. 3; June 2018 951

band arcing and this is observed for both coatings. Therefore, Table 4. Eroded mass in grams of a circular section surrounding the insulator
pin for bottom coated insulators in horizontal strings.
the type of filler may not be important for vertical strings. For
H1 H3 Total
horizontal strings, and for bottom and fully coated insulators, Horizontal insulator H2
energized grounded (g)
the leakage currents develop relatively quickly for S1 coating S1-bottom coated 1.808 0.258 0.457 2.524
than S2 coating. S2-bottom coated 1.403 0.094 0.080 1.577


Due to the orientation of the string and the reduced
impingement of salt-fog droplets, the vertical strings can be
expected to have reduced or no dry-band arcing and therefore,
little or no erosion surrounding the pin cement of the
insulators as complete loss of hydrophobicity along the entire
creepage path does not take place. In this regard, both coatings
show equivalent performance. However, on horizontal strings,
because of the loss of hydrophobicity over the entire creepage
path, dry-band arcing occurs surrounding the insulator pin and
coating erosion happens. The total energy dissipated during
dry-band arcing was estimated by summing the square of the (a)
rms leakage current in one-second intervals over the entire
1000 hour test duration. As this energy contains a resistance
term, and if assumed to be constant, the ratios between
insulator strings can provide a relative degree of energy to
cause coating erosion. This is shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Energy during dry-band arcing for horizontal strings.

Relative energy for
Coating Energy (joules)

Coating S1-fully coated 38.83 k 3.8

Coating S2-fully coated 10.10 k 1.0
Coating S1-bottom coated 68.88 k 4.0 (b)
Figure 11. Example of the dry-band erosion of coating over the pin cement on
Coating S2-bottom coated 17.00 k 1.0 the insulator at the energized end of the bottom coated horizontal string (a)
*k is a constant containing resistance S-1 coating (b) S-2 coating.

It can be noted in Table 3 that S1 coated insulator strings, 3.5 MAXIMUM LEAKAGE CURRENT 
both fully and bottom coated show up to four times more Figures 12 and 13, and Figure 14 and 15 show the maximum
energy for erosion from dry-band arcing than for S2 coated leakage currents in peak that was recorded every second for
insulator strings. the fully and bottom coated horizontal strings, respectively.
To estimate the coating mass eroded on the horizontal coated a) Horizontal Fully Coated Insulator Strings
insulator strings, the coating was first cleaned using 5 % acetic
acid solution and then the coating was removed from a defined 300
circular area by scrapping, and then weighed. The un-eroded
mass was also estimated in the same way of the eroded mass 250
Max Leakage Current, mA

by using un-eroded insulators. The difference between the two

provided an estimate as to the eroded mass from dry band
arcing. This was done for all units of both the fully and bottom 200
coated horizontal strings.
The estimates for the fully coated insulators were deemed to
be unreliable so only the results from the bottom coated
strings are shown in Table 4. 100
Table 4 shows that the total mass loss on the three insulators
in the string is about two times greater for S1 bottom coated 50
insulators than for S2 insulators. This follows from the results
shown in Table 3 but not in the same ratio. 0
0 200 400 600 800 1000  
Figure 11 shows one example of erosion over the pin cement Time, hours
on the insulator at the energized end of the bottom coated Figure 12. Maximum leakage current acquired every second for the fully
horizontal string with S-2 coating. coated horizontal string of S1 coated insulators.
952 S. Ilhan and E. A. Cherney: Comparative tests on RTV Silicone Rubber Coated Porcelain Suspension Insulators

200 The first observation that can be made is that the maximum
  leakage current occurs for the S1 coated insulator string,
indicating about 250 mA for the fully coated insulators and
about 275 mA for the bottom coated insulator string whereas
Max Leakage Current, mA

the S2 coated strings show maximums of 190 mA for both the

fully and bottom coated strings. In the work published by
Ramirez et al., the critical leakage current for flashover of an
100 insulator somewhat similar in design to those in the present
work was reported as 250 mA [8]. This suggests the horizontal
strings with S1 coated insulators is close to flashover.
50 However, 10 kVA rating of the test transformer may have
prevented flashover as a voltage drop was observed during
dry-band arcing. As the maximum leakage current does not
0 appear to be increasing, it is evident that the string with S2
0 200 400 600 800 1000
coated insulators will not flashover. However, these
Time, hours experiments have been done using a salinity of 40 g/L and a
Figure 13. Maximum leakage current acquired every second for the fully higher salinity may cause flashover of the S1 coated horizontal
coated horizontal string of S2 coated insulators. string before flashover of the S2 coated string.
The second observation is that the bottom coated insulator
strings perform about the same as the fully coated insulator
b) Horizontal Bottom Coated Insulator Strings strings. This suggests that it may not be necessary to use fully
  coated insulators and that the bottom coated insulators will
300 perform nearly as well. Of course the implications of this is
significant cost savings and fewer concerns of handling
250 damage in the field.
Max Leakage Current, mA

The primary mechanism by which RTV coatings perform is
150 through their retention of hydrophobicity but severe pollution
conditions will cause a temporary loss of hydrophobicity. The
temporary loss of hydrophobicity along the entire creepage
path of insulators will lead to leakage current and dry band
arcing. For suspension insulators, and due to the voltage
50 distribution along its surface, dry-band arcing will only occur
around the insulator pin. Dry-band arcing will erode the RTV
0 coating surrounding the pin which unlike coating on a
0 200 400 600 800 1000
substrate that tracks, for example a composite insulator, this is
Time, hours
Figure 14. Maximum leakage current acquired every second for the bottom
of no consequence. Erosion around the insulator pin does not
coated horizontal string of S1 coated insulators. lead to flashover and therefore, the focus on erosion resistance
of coatings for ceramic insulator applications should not be of
250 Vertical applications of coated suspension insulators have
been shown to perform in 40 g/L salt fog conditions without a
200 loss of hydrophobicity along its creepage distance and this is
independent of the type of filler in the coating. It is the direct
Max Leakage Current, mA

wetting along the creepage path that causes a temporary loss

150 of hydrophobicity and if this does not occur, leakage current
does not develop. Therefore, it can be stated that coatings
which retain their hydrophobicity will perform without
consideration as to their filler type.
The performance of horizontal strings of coated suspension
50 insulators appears to have some dependence on the type of
filler and this is more related to the preventing the temporary
loss of hydrophobicity than erosion resistance. However, even
  0 200 400 600 800 1000 though erosion occurs, the performance does not suffer.
Time, hours Leakage current in 40g/L salt fog does not develop to result in
Figure 15. Maximum leakage current acquired every second for the bottom flashover, but may do so in a higher salinity environment. In
coated horizontal string of S2 coated insulators. this case, the silica filled coating appears to perform somewhat
IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Vol. 25, No. 3; June 2018 953

better than the ATH filled coating. The temporary loss of REFERENCES
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[3] E.A. Cherney, “RTV Silicone Rubber Coatings for Substation Insulator
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level of the results.
Suat Ilhan (M’10) was born in Malatya, Turkey in
5 CONCLUSIONS 1979. He received B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. degrees
in electrical engineering from Istanbul Technical
This study has shown that coatings that retain their University, Istanbul, Turkey in 2001, 2004, and
hydrophobicity along the entire creepage path of suspension 2012, respectively. He is currently an assistant
insulators will not develop leakage current which leads to dry- professor at the same university. His main research
interests are numerical analysis of electrical fields,
band arcing, erosion of coating, and flashover. Vertical strings insulation design of electric power systems,
of insulators do not lose their hydrophobicity along the entire measurement of partial discharge and
creepage path and therefore perform in 40 g/L salt fog without electromagnetic interferences.
developing leakage current. Horizontal strings will
temporarily lose their hydrophobicity and leakage current Edward A. Cherney (M’73-SM’83-LF’09) received
develops which is somewhat higher for alumina-trihydrate the B.Sc. degree in physics and chemistry from the
filled than silica filled coatings which could lead to flashover University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada; the M.Sc.
at a higher salinity. Coating erosion due to dry-band arcing degree in physics from McMaster University,
Hamilton, Canada; and the Ph.D degree in electrical
around the pin does not affect the string performance. engineering from the University of Waterloo,
Bottom coated suspension insulators appear to perform Waterloo, Canada, in 1967, 1969, and 1974,
respectively. In 1968, he joined the Research Division
equally as well as fully coated insulators, at least in 40g/L salt of Ontario Hydro, and in 1988, he went into the
fog, and the concept has economic merits over fully coated insulator industry, first with a manufacturer of
insulators. Field trials of this concept most certainly would be insulators and then later with a manufacturer of silicone materials. Since 1998,
beneficial to acceptance of this concept. he has been an international consultant in the outdoor insulation field and an
adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada. He has
published extensively on outdoor insulation, holds several patents,
ACKNOWLEDGMENT co-authored a book on outdoor insulators, and has been involved in several
IEEE working groups on outdoor insulators, a registered engineer in the
This work was supported by the Scientific and Technological province of Ontario and for ten years, the co-editor-in-chief of the IEEE
Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK-1001, Project Electrical Insulation Magazine. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the
No:117E276). Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society Transactions.