Dielectric Properties of Water and Water/Ethylene Glycol Mixtures for Use in Pulsed Power System Design

Markus Zahn, Yoshimichi Ohki, David B. Fenneman, Ronald J. Gripshover, Victor H. Gehman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


One class of modern pulse power generators use deionized water as an energy storage, switching and transmission dielectric. Water is chosen for its high dielectric constant and relatively high resistivity, which allows reasonably sized and efficient low-impedance high-voltage pulse lines where pulse durations are less than 100 ps. Water/ethylene glycol mixtures are being researched, so that rotating machinery, rather than the usual Marx generator, can be used as the primary energy store. The high resistivity and high dielectric constant of these mixtures at low temperature permit low-loss operation on millisecond time scales. Simple design criteria linking load parameters and charging circuit characteristics to the liquid dielectric are developed which show that the dielectric constant, breakdown strength, and relaxation time are the primary properties of interest to the pulse power engineer. On time scales greater than 100 p.s, injection of space charge, with density q and mobility µ, affects the charging and discharging circuit characteristics, introduces the time constant of the time of flight for injected charge to migrate between electrodes, and increases the effective ohmic conductivity σ to σ + qμ.A drift-dominated conduction model is used to describe measured space-charge effects. Kerr electrooptic field mapping measurements show strong space-charge effects with significant distortions in the electric field distribution a few hundred microseconds after high voltage is applied. The injected charge magnitude and sign depends on the electrode material. Thus by appropriate choice of electrode material combinations and voltage polarity, it is possible to have uncharged liquid, unipolar-charged negative or positive, or bipolar-charged liquid. An important case is that of bipolar injection, which has allowed up to a 40 percent higher applied voltage without breakdown than with no charge injection, and thus a doubling of stored energy due to the space-charge shielding which lowers the electric field strengths at both electrodes. Although injected space charge increases the stored electric energy over the capacitive space-charge-free energy, (1/2)CV2, more energy is required from a source during charging and the energy delivered to a resistive load is reduced because of internal dissipation in the capacitor as the charge is conducted to the electrodes. However, it appears that this extra dissipation due to injected charge can be made negligibly small and well worth the price if the space charge allows higher voltage operation for long charging time or repetitively operated machines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1182-1221
Number of pages40
JournalProceedings of the IEEE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1986 Sept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Computer Science


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