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Arab J Sci Eng

DOI 10.1007/s13369-014-0972-3


Analysis of Breakdown Voltage and Cost Reduction

of Transformer Oil by Using Nomex Paper and Filler
Arooj Rashid Abdur Rashid Nayab Pervez

Received: 11 October 2012 / Accepted: 31 January 2013

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals 2014

Abstract AC breakdown voltage characteristics of different

insulation materials in transformer oil are investigated. The
aim is to reduce the quantity of expensive transformer oil by
adding Filler (insulation material) to reduce the cost of the
transformer oil without compromising its electrical proper-
ties. Experiments are conducted for two insulation materials,
aluminium oxide and silicon dioxide. Both of these materi-
als are tested in horizontal and vertical electrode arrange-
ments. After introducing the Filler and selecting its optimum
quantity, Nomex paper (E 56) is added to enhance the break-
down strength of the model. Combination of Nomex paper (E
56) and Filler acts as a barrier and thus enhances the break-
down strength of the model. Dielectric constant, resistivity
and conductivity are calculated to investigate the variations
in electrical properties of the model. Based on experimenta-
tion, optimum condition for the addition of Filler and Nomex
paper (E 56) in the transformer oil is proposed. Detailed result 1 Introduction
of using composite insulation is discussed in this paper.
In many electric power apparatuses, insulation is one of the
Keywords Breakdown strength Filler Breakdown major factors which provide support, cooling and high break-
characteristics Transformer oil Insulation barrier down strength as well. Many solids, liquids and gases have
Dielectric constant Conductivity been used as insulators in electric power systems [1]. Sul-
phur hexafluoride (SF6) [2] is one of such gases having high
breakdown strength and arc-quenching property. Its use in
transformers is increasing as compared to the transformer oil
but SF6 gas has high Global Warming Potential which makes
it a restricted gas as it is harmful to the environment [3]. It is
an important fact to be realized and electric power apparatus
should be designed accordingly.
Intensive research is being conducted on the insulating
properties of dielectric mediums, especially on the trans-
former oil due to its major implications in electric power
Abdur Rashid (B) Arooj Rashid N. Pervez
apparatus. Efforts are being put to reduce the cost of the trans-
Department of Electrical Engineering, Comsats Institute
of Information Technology, Abbottabad Campus, Abbottabad, Pakistan former by decreasing the quantity of transformer oil without
e-mail: compromising the overall performance of the system. Con-

Arab J Sci Eng

cept of addition of insulation materials in transformer oil electrical properties of composite insulation model are cal-
which may result in significant cost reduction is investigated culated by using a famous method known as Polarization
in this paper. and Depolarization method [12]. At the end of the paper,
There are two main reasons to carry out this research. First the outcome of the experiments is discussed.
is to develop an insulation combination which is economi-
cally and technically suitable for the practical application in
transformers and the second is to have a better understanding 2 Experimental Setup
of the behaviour of the insulation material in transformer oil.
Hosticka [4] in 1979 conducted experiments using AC breakdown tests are performed for two types of assem-
anthracene as additive and obtained high breakdown volt- blies:
age when non-uniform field was applied. Satoru [2] in 2008
placed spherical glass beads as Filler in the silicon oil. He 1. Horizontal electrode configuration
improved the breakdown strength by using paper and then 2. Vertical electrode configuration.
calculated the field distribution. In [5], a new polyester com-
posite insulation has been developed which can fulfill the In horizontal electrode configuration, two spheresphere
electrical, physical and thermal needs of power transform- brass electrodes each having 12 mm diameter were used
ers. In the mentioned research, the use of polyester (QUM- as shown in Fig. 1. The gap between these two electrodes
Tek 163) is compared with the use of cellulose and aramid is 2 mm. In vertical electrode configuration, as shown in
papers. The QUM-Tek 163 has better cycle hi-pot withstand, Fig. 2, one electrode is sphere and the other is plane. In this
impulse withstand, dielectric constant and dissipation factor electrode configuration, the diameter of sphere electrode is
compared to the kraft material. In [6], an insulating varnish 12 mm while diameter of plain electrode is 30 mm. The gap
has been introduced with silicone elements. It is unsaturated between these two electrodes is 7 mm. All tests are conducted
polyester vanish. This varnish can be used to enhance the at atmospheric pressure level and at temperature of 5 C.
initial and long-lasting dielectric properties. Lv [7] in 2010 Amount of the Filler is varied by varying the ratio of h and
suspended titanium oxide in transformer oil and came to d. In horizontal electrode configuration, h is the height of the
know after experimentation that it increases the breakdown Filler and d is the distance from the base of the container to
strength of the transformer oil. In [8], ceramic nano-particles the centre of the electrodes.
are selected as they have better electrical insulating property.
There is an increase in the breakdown voltages in titania as
compared to the zirconia.
Wang et al. [9] studies surface flashover of micro-TiO2
epoxy composite dielectric under nanosecond pulse in trans-
former oil. They concluded that the flashover strength can be
enhanced by adding huge amount of micro-TiO2 . Flashover
characteristics affected by fluid pressure and steepness of the
Nano-fillers were also used to improve the thermal con-
ductivity in solid dielectric [10]. Epoxy resins with filler
Fig. 1 Horizontal electrodes configuration
showed improved thermal conductivity. In addition to that,
filler was also used in solid to reduce the cost of unit and
reinforcing the mechanical strength [11].
In this current research, the effects of adding materials
having high as well as low permittivity in the transformer
oil are investigated. However, this research differs from the
previous in a way that it emphasizes mainly on the overall
cost reduction of transformer oil without compromising its
insulating properties.
This paper illustrates the selection of two materials, alu-
minium oxide and silicon dioxide to be used as fillers in
transformer oil. Their behaviour is investigated in two types
of electrodes configurations. After the selection of suitable
filler, experimentation is conducted for the selection of appro-
priate number of Nomex papers. Finally, variations in the Fig. 2 Vertical electrodes configuration

Arab J Sci Eng

Fig. 3 Lab circuit for producing AC voltage

In vertical configuration, h is the height of the Filler

between high and low voltage electrodes and d is the total
distance between two electrodes. In horizontal configuration, Fig. 4 Breakdown voltage versus h/d (silicon dioxide used in horizon-
when h/d = 1, the insulating material touches the electrodes. tal configuration)
When h/d > 1, the electrodes get immersed in the insulating

3 Experimental Results

The test circuit shown in Fig. 3 is used for the production

of AC voltage. The components required are testing trans-
former, connecting rods, measuring capacitor, testing cup
and control desk. Testing Transformer HV (9015) is used
with coupling winding to produce AC high voltage. A 100 pF
measuring capacitor is used as high-voltage divider capacitor
for measurement of AC voltage. Testing cup is used to find
the breakdown strength of insulating oil. The control desk is
used to control the high-voltage AC, DC and impulse equip-
ment. It is a measuring instrument as well as a triggering
device. Fig. 5 Breakdown voltage versus h/d (aluminium oxide used in hori-
zontal configuration)
3.1 Horizontal Electrode Configuration

The selection of Filler is based on its dielectric constant as value of h/d, the amount of oil decreases. It is observed that
silicon dioxide has dielectric constant lower than that of the at h/d = 0.8, i.e. in Region 2 of Fig. 4, the breakdown voltage
transformer oil while aluminium oxide has dielectric constant decreases more as compared to the Region 1. At this stage
higher than that of the transformer oil. Tests are conducted the Filler touches the high-voltage electrode.
for both silicon dioxide and aluminium oxide. The result Figure 5 shows results for using aluminium oxide as Filler
for horizontal arrangement using silicon dioxide is shown in for the same horizontal electrode configuration. In Fig. 5,
Fig. 4. graph is divided into two regions. In Region 1, it can be seen
It was expected that there will be an improvement in the that when aluminium oxide is not touching the surface of
breakdown voltage of this composite insulation as dielectric two electrodes, the breakdown voltage continues to decrease
constant is below than that of the transformer oil, but in reality with the increase in value of h/d. When the Filler reaches
it was found opposite. Since silica gel absorbs water content the space between two electrodes, it acts as solid insulator
from its surrounding, its electrical properties are changed. material and the breakdown strength increases prominently.
When the amount of Filler is increased, the breakdown volt- This is marked as Region 2 in Fig. 5. The behaviour of alu-
age decreases gradually instead of increasing. This is visible minium oxide is not surprising as oil treats aluminium oxide
at Region 1 of Fig. 4. On the other hand, by increasing the as foreign particles. The decrease in breakdown voltage can

Arab J Sci Eng

Fig. 7 Effect of Nomex paper (E 56) on breakdown voltage (h/d = 0)

Fig. 6 Breakdown voltage versus h/d (silicon dioxide used in vertical
is selected as it is synthetic paper and is available with differ-
ent electrical properties. The selected Nomex paper (E 56)
be explained in the light of Suspended particle mechanism
has dielectric constant lower than that of the transformer oil.
Further tests are conducted to obtain the following:
In Region 1 of Fig. 5, behaviour of aluminium oxide is
almost the same as that of silicone dioxide but in Region 2,
as it touches the high-voltage electrode, it starts behaving Appropriate h/d ratio.
like solid insulator and thus increases the breakdown voltage Behaviour of the breakdown voltage in the presence of
of the composite insulation. Nomex paper.
Silicone dioxide is selected as Filler after experiments due Appropriate number of Nomex papers.
to following reasons:
In start the behaviour of Nomex paper (E 56) is investigated
Low cost in oil without any Filler, i.e. h/d = 0. The result for this value
Same behaviour as aluminium oxide up to h/d = 0.8 of h/d is presented in Fig. 7.
Region 1 in Fig. 7 represents the breakdown voltage when
no paper or Filler is added. With addition of even a sin-
3.2 Vertical Electrode Configuration gle Nomex paper, the breakdown voltage rises to 45.2 kV
thus indicating a significant increase as compared to the
In vertical arrangement, it can be observed that the break- breakdown voltage of virgin transformer oil. Figure 7 shows
down voltage decreases as the value of h/d increases. In improvement in breakdown voltage with the addition of
Region 1 of Fig. 6, there is a slight decrease in the break- Nomex paper (E 56). The behaviour of the Nomex paper (E
down voltage as compared to its value in the horizontal con- 56) is comparable to the barrier effect in the solid insulation.
figuration. In Region 2, the Filler touches the electrodes and Figures 8, 9 and 10 show results for different values of h/d
as a result, the breakdown voltage is reduced to a much and effect of varying the number of Nomex papers.
lower value of 8 kV. Such a low value of breakdown volt- Dielectric property is an important factor in selecting the
age is beyond the consideration of the power equipment. To Fillers. Silicon dioxide is selected as Filler because of its
make it useful for the power apparatus, the breakdown volt- lower dielectric constant and low cost. It should provide
age needs improvement. Further investigation is required to us with greater breakdown voltage. However, experiments
achieve better results and practical solution. show different results. Breakdown voltage keeps on decreas-
In [2] and [4], it has been investigated that insulating mate- ing as the amount of Filler increases. Breakdown voltage
rial having dielectric constant less than that of oil and Filler, decreases because of the nature of silicon dioxide. It has the
can be used for the improvement of the breakdown voltage. property that it acts as desiccant. It absorbs all the moisture
Previously wood, paper and tapes were used in the trans- present in the oil and thus results in change of its properties.
former oil to increase the breakdown voltage of the insula- As a result we get lower breakdown voltage. Therefore, in
tion combination [13]. In this research, Nomex paper (E 56) order to increase the breakdown voltage, Nomex paper (E

Arab J Sci Eng

Fig. 11 Proposed Filler model

56) is introduced in the Filler model. Nomex paper (E 56) is

Fig. 8 Effect of Nomex paper (E 56) on breakdown voltage (h/d = 0.3) placed between the high-voltage and low-voltage electrodes
as shown in Fig. 11. Nomex paper (E 56) can be used easily
because of its low cost. It also changes the voltage distribu-
tion. The proposed Filler model is given in Fig. 11.
From series of experiments (Figs. 8, 9, 10), it has been
found that h/d = 0.5 is an appropriate ratio that yields:

Improved breakdown voltage as required by the trans-

Sufficient amount of Filler which may reduce the quantity
of oil.

After performing experiments for finding the appropriate

Filler ratio and number of Nomex papers, other electrical
properties like electrical conductivity and resistivity of the
proposed Filler model are investigated. The proposed Filler
model is not of homogenous composition but a complex mix-
ture of oil, Nomex paper (E 56) and Filler.
Fig. 9 Effect of Nomex paper (E 56) on breakdown voltage (h/d = 0.5)
3.3 Electrical Conductivity of the Proposed Filler Model

Electrical conductivity of the proposed model is investigated

by the well known Polarization and Depolarization method
[12]. It is a user-friendly method and provides authentic
results especially in the case of composite insulating mate-
rials. In addition, it is a non-destructive method. Its cir-
cuit diagram is shown in Fig. 12. The value of conductivity
is obtained by finding the difference between polarization
and depolarization current. The observations are shown in
Figs. 13 and 14.
A 2 kV dc source is applied for 10,000 s to find the polar-
ization current and then the source is removed to find the
depolarization current for further 10,000 s.
From [12], the equation for the estimation of the conduc-
tivity is given as:
ipol (t) idepol (t) (1)
Fig. 10 Effect of Nomex paper (E 56) on breakdown voltage (h/d = 0.7) U0 C0

Arab J Sci Eng

Table 1 Calculated values of conductivity, resistivity and dielectric

Parameter Value

oil 0.73 1011 S/m

oil 1.36 1011  m
Paper 0.18 1011 S/m
Paper 5.5 1011  m
Dielectric constant 2.8

Fig. 12 Polarization and depolarization circuit diagram

Fig. 15 Proposed model

Here is the estimated conductivity, C0 is the capacitance of

the test object,U0 is the step voltage and 0 is the permittivity
of free space.
From [12], dielectric constant can be obtained using
Eq. (2):
11.4 C L
= (2)
Here C is the capacitance. L is the distance between two
Fig. 13 Polarization current graph electrodes and A is the area of container. The values obtained
after calculations are given in Table 1.
The obtained values of conductivity and resistivity of pro-
posed Filler model are comparable with the values of the
conductivity and resistivity of the virgin transformer oil and
Nomex paper.

3.4 Practical Implementation

After performing a series of experiments and thorough inves-

tigation, a model is proposed as shown in the Fig. 15. In pro-
posed model, the main winding of transformer is immersed
in oil as in the case of a conventional transformer while Filler
is separated from the transformer oil by using Nomex paper
(E 56). Nomex paper (E 56) acts as a barrier. It not only
improves the breakdown voltage, but also prevents direct
mixing of Filler with transformer oil. This Filler does not
create any hurdle in the core for replacement or dehydration
Fig. 14 Depolarization current graph of transformer oil. Nomex paper (E 56) acts as a barrier. It not

Arab J Sci Eng

only improves the breakdown voltage but also prevents direct References
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Acknowledgments I (Arooj Rashid) would like to extend gratitude to ization current measurements for the assessment of oil paper insu-
my respected supervisor Dr. Abdur Rashid for his supervision. He has lation of aged transformers. IEEE Trans. Dielectr. Electr. Insul.
guided me well by giving his valuable time throughout in this project. 11:144154 (2004)
He helped me in this research for making it successful and his presence 13. Olle, S.: Insulation materials. 2:4.2 (2001)
made me stand against the challenges in crucial times. I would also like 14. Saha, T.K.: Review of modern diagnostic techniques for assessing
to pay thanks to my colleague Mr. M. Arif for helping me in making insulation condition in aged transformers. IEEE Trans. Dielectr.
necessary arrangements during the experiments. I would also like to Electr. Insul. 10:903917 (2003)
pay my thanks to Miss Nayab Pervez for her help in experimentation.