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Improvement of Tracking and Erosion Behavior of Outdoor

Insulation with a New Polymeric Alloy

M. Ehsani1, H. Borsi2, E. Gockenbach2, J. Morshedian1, G. R. Bakhshandeh1
Iran Polymer and Petrochemical Institute, Tehran, Iran
Institute for Electric Power Systems (Schering-Institute), University Hannover, Germany

Tracking and erosion resistances of high temperature vulcanizing (HTV) silicone rubber, ethylene-propylene
diene monomer (EPDM), blend of silicone-EPDM, and a new polymeric alloy were evaluated after being aged by
the stress of water salinity and UV radiation. Silicone rubber insulators suffer from tracking and erosion
resistance. New polymeric alloy shows an excellent resistance to electrical discharge on pollution environments
in comparison to silicone rubber, EPDM, and blend of them. UV stress deteriorated the surface of EPDM,
thereby reducing the tracking and erosion resistance of it. Water salinity reduced tracking and erosion resistance
in silicone rubber. The losses of hydrophobicity of polymeric materials during UV aging have been also studied
in this paper.

1 Introduction housing material performance. Shed bonds degraded

in these early insulators when exposed to a coastal
The history of polymeric insulators began in the 1940s environment. The suppliers have developed an alloy
when organic insulating materials were used to consisting of EPDM with silicone rubber. Ohio Brass
manufacture high voltage indoor electrical insulators (1986) a blend of ethylene propylene (EPR) and
from epoxy resins [1]. These materials were light silicone which was subsequently changed to ethylene
weight, impact resistance, and could be used to form propylene diene monomer (EPDM) and SIR
large complex parts. Polymeric insulators for outdoor compound in 1989. The alloy of EPDM and SIR may
use were made feasible by the discovery in the 1950s make it possible to combine the properties of two
that alumina trihydrate filler increases the tracking and materials [3]. It was reported that one company has
erosion resistance of the polymeric materials. produced commercially with the alloys of EPDM and
However, polymeric insulators for outdoor application SIR over 2.5 million distribution, 0.1 million
on transmission lines were not developed until the late transmission class line post insulators and 0.4 million
1960s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, suspension insulators which are currently installed in
manufactures introduced the first generation of power systems in different parts of the world [3]. This
commercial polymeric transmission line insulators [1]. gives a clear indication of a wield acceptance of this
At the beginning, non-ceramic insulators contained blend of materials. This paper reports on experimental
ethylene propylene rubbers (EPR) which were made investigation on electrical and surface properties of
by different companies such as Ceraver of France silicone modified polymer (new component)
(1975), Ohio Brass of U.S.A. (1976), Sedivar of compared with silicone rubber (SIR), ethylene-
U.S.A (1977) and Lap of U.S.A (1980). At 1976, propylene–diene monomer (EPDM), and alloys of
Rosenthal Co and Reliable Co of the U.S.A in 1983 SIR-EPDM.
presented silicone rubber (SIR) [1]. Silicone
composite insulators were used in Germany in 1977 2 Sample Preparation
for up to 123 kV and in 1979 for up to 245 kV [2].
Early utility experimentation with the first generation All the materials used for this work were commercial
of polymeric insulators led to mixed results. One products and they were used without further
insulator that featured silicone rubber housing, and treatments. Table 1 shows identification of raw
construction that avoided joints in the housing, materials. Several formulations containing silicone
performed well electrically. However, because of low rubber and EPDM were prepared. Silicone rubber was
tear resistance of the sheds the room temperature blended with EPDM and other materials at 180 °C in
vulcanized silicone rubber was replaced with high a Haake internal mixer for 10 min at a rotor speed 100
temperature vulcanized silicone rubber. rpm for preparation alloy of SIR-EPDM and new
Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) shed polymeric alloy. The individual elastomers and the
sections used in another insulator type provided good blends were compound with peroxide in a roll mill at
room temperature. Vulcanization was done in electrodes was 5 cm. A voltage of 3 kV AC was
hydraulically operated press at 170 °C and 15 bar for supplied. Thus, voltage application of 3 kV created an
10 min. average electric field strength of 600 V/cm. The flow
rate of contaminant was obtained with a peristatic
Table 1 Identification of material pump, and the chosen flow rate was 0.3 ml/ min. The
end of test (tracking time) was defined as the leakage
Material Description current is over 60 mA for 2 sec.

A HTV silicone rubber, peroxide cure

3.2 Hydrophobicity
B EPDM base, peroxide cure
Hydrophobicity of a surface is intimately related to the
C Alloy of SIR-EPDM (50/50), peroxide so-called contact angle. Consider an ideal
cure axisymmetric drop of water resting on an ideal flat
homogenous horizontal solid surface. The contact
D New polymeric alloy, peroxide cure angle is the angle θ which is formed by the air-water
interface of the drop and the solid surface at the three
–phase line of contact. The most commonly used
method for contact angle measurements of surface
hydrophobicity is the sessile drop technique. A droplet
3 Test Apparatus and Test Pro- of a purified liquid (distillate water) is placed on a
cedure surface using a syringe. The resulting angle between
the droplets is measured, generally using a goniometer
3.1 Tracking or a charge coupled device (CCD) camera fitted onto
a microscope. A drop shape analysis system G10
The tracking resistance is evaluated according to IEC (Kruss-USA) was used for hydrophobicity studies.
60587 [4]. The set-up according to IEC 60587
tracking and erosion test is shown in Figure 1.
4 Results and Discussion
Feed 4.1 Tracking and erosion resistance
High Voltage evaluation
22 kΩ
When subjected to polluted atmospheres, insulators
Sample attain deposits of airborne solid contaminants, usually
Top Electrode containing some ionic substances which form
electrolytes and give rise to surface leakage currents
220 V under moist conditions such as fog, rain, dew or mist.
~ AC Bottom Electrode In regions of high current density differential
evaporation of the moisture from the surface layer
produces local voltage gradients (electrical stresses)
greater than the breakdown stresses for the
Variable Ratio surrounding atmosphere (air). The discharges
Transformer propagate across dried regions, or bands. This
mechanism is known as dry band formation.
Figure 1 The experimental set-up to tracking and These types of electrical discharges may occur in
erosion test service under the influence of dirt, moisture, and
deposited conductive salts. Discharge inception under
The contamination electrolyte used in this study was a the above conditions is the consequence of several
0.1% ammonium chloride solution (NH4CL) and sequential processes:
0.02% Isooctyl-phenoxypolyethoxyethanol (a non-
ionic wetting agent) in de-ionized water (Triton X- a) The coating of the insulator with ionic deposits
100). The conductivity of the contaminant was b) Formation of an electrolyte by the absorption of
measured with a conductivity meter (Schott Geräte moisture
CG 858) and it was 2530 µs / cm at 23 °C. The c) Surface leakage currents and localized drying of
samples were slab – shaped (12 cm x 5 cm x 6 mm). the electrolyte (dry band formation).
The distance between the top and the bottom
Processes (a) and (b) are dependent on the Table 2 and 3 show the condition of tracking test and
environment, and may even be combined as in the the tracking and erosion resistance of polymers,
case of salt storms in coastal regions, whereas (c) is respectively. It can be seen from Table 3 that silicone
dependent on the rate of formation of the ionic rubber has a poor tracking resistance and has high
conduction on the surface. The degrading effect of erosion losses compared to other polymers.
these processes is simulated by the tracking test.
Tracking and erosion are serious degradation modes The tracking resistance of polymer insulating
for non-ceramic insulators that reduce their insulating materials can be offered by environmental conditions
properties and mechanical strength considerably. such as UV radiation, moisture, and acid rain. The
Surface electrical discharging ultimately results from influence of water salinity and UV radiation on
build up of leakage current on insulating devices tracking resistance of samples also studied. Table 4
during wet contaminated conditions. In this situation, shows the tracking resistance and erosion parameters
the polymer material can undergo various chemical after UV and water salinity aging. The samples were
reactions leading to deterioration of mechanical and immersed in water salinity (5% NaCL) for 1500 hrs.
electrical properties. One method of degradation is the The polymers have also been exposed to UV for 1700
formation of a carbonaceous conducting path on the hrs at 30°C.
surface of the insulation, due to heat generated by
discharges. These start locally across the dry bands Table 4 Tracking time, weight loss and maximum
formed on the surface of a sample, when sufficient erosion depth: 1) after water salinity and
contamination is accumulated in the surface regions 2) after UV aging
between the electrodes. The carbonized conduction
path finally forms over the short circuited path. A B C D
Another mode of damage is the progressive loss of
material because of the formation of degradation 1 20 120 30 70
products due to a localized reaction, resulting in T (min)
erosion of the insulting surface. The mode of 2 360 60 20 70
degradation may vary according to the chemical
composition of the polymer, type of contamination,
and the type of the discharge activity. Weight loss 1 2.5 fire 0.3 0.23
Table 2 Tracking test conditions 2 0.23 fire 0.35 0.13
Applied voltage 3.5 kV erosion depth 1 3.3 - 1.5 0.5
Flow rate contamination 0.3 ml/min. 2 1.5 - 1 0.7

Type of contamination NH4CL It can be seen from Table 4 that the tracking and
erosion resistance have changed after water salinity
Conductivity 2530 µs/cm aging in the case of silicone rubber. This can be the
result of the absorption of water during water salinity
aging. The reduction is clearly caused by an expansion
Table 3 Tracking time, weight loss and maximum force during the boiling of absorbed water.
erosion Furthermore, if water is injected into the bulk, ions or
electrons in contaminated electrolyte can migrate into
A B C D the interior via absorbed water, and a current develops
through the bulk. The development of such current
causes the boiling of absorbed water and, finally,
T (min) 40 >60 30 75
promotes mechanical and chemical erosion. It seems
that NaCL in salt water permeates into the samples
Weight loss % 1.5 Fire 0.2 0.114 and acts as ionic carrier, causing on increase in current
Maximum erosion 3 - 0.8 0.65 Table 4 shows the changes of the tracking and erosion
depth (mm) resistance after UV aging (1700 hrs). The test results
indicated that UV radiation has had no negative effect
on tracking endurance for silicone rubber (A) and the
new material (D). It can be the result of disappearing
of carbon and increasing of oxygen because of UV unit silicone oligomers possess low boiling
stress. This means that oxygen binds silicone temperatures, with those of D4 to D6 ranging from
polymers at the surface instead of carbon in methyl 173 °C to 245 °C [5]. When dry-band arcing is
groups (CH3) [5]. When carbon as a result of the concentrated in one point, formed the oligomers D4 to
formation of conductive path decreases, therefore, D6 are volatilized due to their low flash points.
tracking resistance increases, special in silicone
rubber. According to the results obtained by EDX and
ATR-FTIR, it is adequate to define that C-H and Si-
CH3 bonds in PDMS are broken, and then the atomic 2.5 Virgin
rate of oxygen increases and OH bonds are formed at 2.5 Water Salinity
broken chain sites to form silanol groups because of
UV aging [5-7]. UV Aging

Weight (%)
Figures 2 to 4 show a comparison of tracking time and
erosion parameters in different condition for sample 1.5
A, B, C, and D. It can be seen that sample D has good 1.5
tracking and erosion resistance compared to silicone
rubber, EPDM and blend of silicone-EPDM. 1
Although, tracking resistance for silicone rubber
improved by UV aging, but it should be noted that the 0.35
0.5 0.3 0.23
reduction of hydrophobicity during UV aging causes 0.23 0.2
accumulation of pollution on the surface of polymer 0 0 0 0.114
and flashover. 0
A B(Firing) C D
360 Sample
Virgin Sample
Water Salinity Figure 3 Loss of weight samples after tracking test
300 in different condition
UV Aging
Tracking (min)

3.5 3.3
200 3 Virgin
150 Water Salinity
Max. erosion depth (mm)


100 75 70 70 2.5 UV Aging

60 60
50 30 2
20 20 20
1.5 1.5
0 1.5
A B(Firing) C D 1
1 0.8
Sample 0.65 0.5 0.7
Figure 2 Comparison of tracking time in different 0.5
condition 0 0 0
Gas Chromatography-Mass spectrometer (MS) shows A B(Firing) C D
the evolved gases during the thermal degradation of
HTV-silicone rubber [8]. Silicone rubber subjected to Sample
thermal decomposition is known to form cyclic Figure 4 Maximum erosion depth for samples in
dimethylsiloxane (DMS) together with a small amount different condition
of linear DMS (∼1%wt). The molecular units of most
formed cyclic DMS (∼90%wt) are D3 to D6 [8-11].
It has been shown already that electrical discharges 4.2 Contact angle
increase the number of cyclic silicone oligomers of 4
to 6 unites (D4 to D6) on the surface of HTV silicone Figure 5 shows the influence of UV aging on to the
rubber [5]. Cyclic silicone oligomers of low unite contact angle of samples. The test condition was
would increase at the surface with the duration of the maintained as 50 ± 5 % RH and 30 ± 3 °C, and
inclined plane tracking and erosion test. Those low
samples were subjected to UV light for 1700 h. It is 6 Literature
well known that 200 hours of test period is equivalent
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Insulators. IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine,

Vol.14, No.2, pp. 26-33, 1998
75 [4] IEC Publication: The Methods for Evaluating
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60 A Insulating Materials under Severe Ambient
Conditions. 1982, Second Edition
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0 500 1000 1500
Erosion of HTV Silicone Rubber and
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function of UV ageing time.