Sustainable energy sources at decentralized locations require an efficient transport of electricity on continental scales: the energy fluctuations of water power in Norway could be balanced by those of solar panel arrays in Spain. To enable this, new long-distance transport electricity nets are in planning or under construction that would operate at higher voltages and/or lower frequencies. This poses new challenges for equipment. Our Multiscale Plasma Dynamics group studies sparking problems that belong to the very nature of such high voltage equipment.
On the one hand, insulators are supposed to suppress sparking from high voltage points, but why and when does it happen nevertheless? And how, in particular, can surface flashover be avoided that might ruin the insulators? On the other hand, sparks play an important role in switch gear that should interrupt the electric current in high voltage electricity lines if needed. But how can we replace the greenhouse gas SF6 in these switches with another gas? And how do the discharge processes depend on the gas composition?
Our research and industry partners in this domain represent a wide range of experimental techniques and industrial applications for long-distance electricity networks. The Multiscale Dynamics group develops numerical models of discharge growth on several scales of space, time and energy, and systematic model reduction between the models on different scales. These micro-based and hence quantitative models can predict a growing range of phenomena and replace experiments that are expensive or impossible and contribute to understanding and using spark processes in high voltage technology.