Fundamentals of Polyethylene Composites for HVDC Cable Insulation – Interfaces and Charge Carriers

Time: Wed 2020-08-26 10.00

Location: Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Fibre and Polymer Science

Doctoral student: Mattias E. Karlsson , Polymera material

Opponent: Professor Mikael Skrifvars, Högskolan i Borås

Supervisor: Associated Professor Richard Olsson, Polymera material


Power transmission over long distances by using high voltage direct current (HVDC) cables is important for the transition from fossil energy to using renewable energy sources, e.g. wind, solar and water. Higher operating voltages enable longer transmission lines but better insulation materials with a much lower conductivity than today´s crosslinked polyethylene (PE) are required to reach the goal of 1 MV by 2030. Nanocomposites consisting of small fractions of metal oxide nanoparticles in PE are promising insulation materials, showing ca. 100 times lower conductivity. The reasons for the better insulating properties are however not fully understood.

The properties of PE and inorganic nanoparticles were studied in this project to evaluate the influence of different material parameters on the conductivity of the cable insulation material. For pristine PE, the polymer morphology and oxidation were found to have a significant impact on the conductivity. For PE nanocomposites, the particle/polymer interface was shown to adsorb polar molecules, which are present in PE cable insulation. A suggested hypothesis is that the adsorption on particle surfaces results in cleaning of the bulk polymer from impurities, which in turn contributes to decreased nanocomposite conductivity. Since the particle interface is believed to be decisive for the nanocomposite properties, the role of particle terminations was investigated in detail. Oxygen dominated particle terminations resulted in 2 times higher composite conductivity than with zinc dominated surfaces, while fully oxygen covered surfaces showed 10 times higher conductivity. Composite systems with micro-sized particles allowed for evaluating parameters independently, which is not possible for nanocomposites. Terminations of ‘PE-like’ hydrocarbon chains lowered the conductivity and these trends could also be transferred to similar zinc oxide nanocomposite systems.