PEEK: Electrical Characteristics of the Suspension Insulator II

[Trade Journal]

Publication: American Institute Of Electrical Engineers

New York, NY, United States
vol. 39, no. 7, p. 623-630, col. 1-2

Electrical Characteristics of the Suspension Insulator--II.


The Line Insulator at the Higher Voltages


BY F. W. PEEK, Jr.

General Electric Co., Pittsfield, Mass.


IT is the purpose of this paper to review the duties of the line insulator at voltages above 100 kv. and compare them with the duties imposed by the lower voltages. It seems desirable to do this at the present time in order to predict the reliability of future high-voltage lines as compared with those at present in operation, and to point out what changes, if any, are necessary in present practise. The discussion is based in general upon data and operating experiences of many investigations and, in particular, upon extensive investigations made by the author during the last few years. Quite complete data on that phase of the author's investigation dealing with voltage distribution will be given.




At the present voltages the problem is primarily a mechanical one. Mechanically, porcelain would never be selected as a line support. It is unreliable in tension, subject to cracking, and if made in large pieces subject to porosity. The greatest care is necessary in manufacture to secure a uniform, tough, non-brittle material, free from porosity. Unfortunately it is the only material that we know of at the present time that will withstand the weather without the carbonization and deterioration of organic compounds under the electrical stress.

Generally after three to five years of more or less successful operation, insulators selected by the most careful electrical tests begin to fail rapidly. There are of course exceptions, but the experience is quite general and most operating companies anticipate breakdown by periodic tests designed to weed out faulty units.

The apparent deterioration of porcelain is generally due to one of the following causes:

1. Gradual mechanical cracking, due to expansion of cement or tight-fitting metal parts, or to internal firing strains or brittle porcelain.

2. Gradual absorption of moisture due to porosity.

The greater part of the trouble has been due to cracking under stresses caused by expansion of cement or of tight-fitting or cemented-in metal parts. Cracking may also be caused by uneven expansion in very thick porcelain parts of different shapes.

The foregoing causes of deterioration are well verified in practise, because the type of insulator in which the porcelain units are strung together by loose fitting metal parts or cables shows no deterioration after ten years or more of service. This was found to be so even when some of the earlier units were made of poor material. The absorption of moisture seems to be due to a considerable extent to breathing. The presence of a damp sponge of cement is thus also undesirable from this standpoint as it keeps moist the air breathed by the porcelain.

The solution of the deterioration problem seems to be to start with a design as free as possible from expansion troubles and the selection of a tough, non-porous porcelain. Years of service have been the best criterion of design. Regarding the selection of material, no present, practical electrical test will anticipate future cracking due to internal strains or brittle porcelain or will indicate porosity in dry porcelain. The desired results can probably best be attained by testing a small percentage of the product to destruction from day to day after the usual electrical and inspection tests have been made, the object being to determine if the product is up to the standard and of uniform quality. This idea is not new, but is used in the manufacture of lamps and in other industries. Electrical, mechanical and porosity uniformity tests are necessary. Extremely accurate tests are not necessary, but it is necessary to have tests that can be quickly made so that any fault can be at