With projects ranging from the study of electrical insulation at nanoscale to the development of ‘intelligent insulation’, the University’s Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory is at the forefront of innovative research in dielectric materials.
Paul Lewin, Professor of Electrical Power Engineering, says: “In the last ten years we have developed from a traditional high voltage laboratory to a more multidimensional team, with expertise in areas such as chemistry, physics and forensics.”
This cross-disciplinary approach puts the Laboratory in a unique position to study dielectrics, the materials used to insulate electrical cables and plant. Its research is contributing to the maintenance the electricity infrastructure, the avoidance of costly equipment failures and the development of more efficient methods for the distribution of electrical power.
Current research includes work on ‘intelligent insulation’. Paul explains: “This involves dielectric materials that change colour when they are under high voltage. They could help in monitoring the condition of equipment by showing when a component is degrading.”
Other projects include finding more cost-effective cable systems to distribute power generated by renewable energy sources, and investigations in the emerging area of nanodielectrics.
In the field of liquid dielectrics the Laboratory is working with National Grid to understanding the reasons for failures in ageing transformers which use mineral oil and paper as the dielectric insulation. The research aims to gain insight into a particular type of failure with the longer-term aim of preventing these failures in future.
As well as undertaking research, the Laboratory provides comprehensive commercial services which are used by the major electricity industry bodies to test new component designs. Paul comments: “Coming into contact with a wide range of companies feeds into our research, as it gives us an insight into common industry challenges and developments.”
The Laboratory’s reputation for excellence is recognised at a global level. “Elements of our work have been incorporated into international standards, and we have been invited to work with leading laboratories in Europe and China,” says Paul.