Monitoring contamination level on insulator materials under dry condition with a microwave reflectometer

Y. Jiang, S.G. McMeekin, A.J. Reid, A. Nekahi, M.D. Judd, A. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
165 Downloads (Pure)


Current techniques used for monitoring the levels of contamination on high voltage insulators, such as leakage current and infrared, are not effective in dry conditions since they require the surface of the insulator to be wetted by fog, rain or snow. If a buildup of contamination occurs during a prolonged dry period prior to a weather change there will be a significant risk that flashover may occur before there is time to implement preventative maintenance. Previous work has demonstrated the use of microwave radiometry to determine the levels of contamination on an insulator material under dry conditions, however practical applications are limited by low sensitivity. This paper reports the development of a novel technique based on microwave reflectometry to detect the power levels reflected from the surface of the insulator material. The level of contamination is then determined as a function of received power. A theoretical model establishes the relationship between equivalent salt deposit density levels on insulator surface and the dielectric properties of the contamination layer. A Finite Difference Time Domain (FDTD) model is used to simulate the total loss as a function of the contamination level. Experimental results verify the FDTD model and demonstrate the sensitivity of the reflectometer system to be approximately 100 times greater than the radiometer system. Therefore, the reflectometry system has considerably greater potential for practical applications to provide advance warning of the future failure of insulators under dry conditions for both HVDC and HVAC systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1427-1434
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • insulator materials
  • microwave reflectometer
  • dry conditions


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