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Read the text. Porcelain Vs. Polymer

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Porcelain Vs. Polymer

For many years, porcelain for insulation purposes on lines and equipment has exercised a virtual monopoly. It was perhaps inevitable that plastics, successful as insulation for conductors since the early 1950’s, should supplant porcelain as insulation for other applications in the electric power field.

The positive properties of porcelain are chiefly its high insulation value and its great strength under compression. Its negative features are its weight (low strength to weight ratio) and its tendency to fragmentation under stress. Much of the strength of a porcelain insulator is consumed in supporting its own weight.

In contrast, the so-called polymer not only has equally high insulation value, but acceptable strength under both compression and tension. It also has better water and sleet shedding properties, hence handles contamination more effectively, and is less prone to damage or destruction from vandalism. It is very much lighter in weight than porcelain (better strength to weight ratio), therefore more easily handled.

Economically, costs of porcelain and polymer materials are very competitive, but the handling factors very much favor the polymer.

Polymer insulation is generally associated with a mechanically stronger insulation, such as high strength fiberglass. The fiberglass insulation serves as an internal structure around which the polymer insulation is attached, usually in the form (and function) of petticoats (sometimes also referred to as bands, water shedders; but for comparison purposes, however, here only the term petticoat will be used). The insulation value of the Polymer petticoats is equal to or greater than that of the fiberglass to which it is attached.

The internal fiberglass structure may take the form of a rod (or shaft), a tube, cylinder, or other shape. It has a high comparable compression strength as a solid and its tensile strength, equally high, is further improved by stranding and aligning around a fiber center. The polymer petticoats are installed around the fiberglass insulation and sealed to prevent moisture or contamination from entering between the petticoats and fiberglass. The metal fittings at either end are crimped directly to the fiberglass, developing a high percentage of the inherent strength of the fiberglass. It should be noted that fiberglass with an elastometric (plastic) covering has been used for insulation purposes since the early 1920’s.

The polymer petticoats serve the same function as the petticoats associated with porcelain insulators, that of providing a greater path for electric leakage between the energized conductors (terminals, buses, etc.) and the supporting structures. In inclement weather, this involves the shedding of rain water or sleet as readily as possible to maintain as much as possible the electric resistance between the energized element and the supporting structure, so that the leakage of electrical current between these two points be kept as low as possible to prevent flashover and possible damage or destruction of the insulator.

Different polymer materials may be combined to produce a polymer with special properties; for example, a silicone EPDM is highly resistant to industrial type pollution and ocean salt.

The advantageous strength to weight ratio of polymer as compared to porcelain makes possible lighter structures and overall costs as well as permitting more compact designs, resulting in narrower right-of-way requirements and smaller station layouts. The reduction in handling, shipping, packaging, storage, preparation and assembly, all with less breakage, are obvious – these, in addition to the superior electromechanical performance.

Fiberglass insulation with its polymer petticoats is supplanting porcelain in bushings associated with transformers, voltage regulators, capacitors, switchgear, circuit breakers, bus supports, instrument transformers, lightning or surge arresters, and other applications. The metallic rod or conductor inside the bushing body may be inserted in a fiberglass tube and sealed to prevent moisture or contamination entering between the conductor and the fiberglass tube around which the polymer petticoats are attached. More often, the fiberglass insulation is molded around the conductor, and the polymer petticoats attached in a similar fashion as in insulators.

Summarizing, the advantages of polymers over porcelain include:

· Polymer insulation offers benefits in shedding rain water or sleet, particularly in contaminated environments.

· Polymer products weigh significantly less than their porcelain counterparts, particularly line insulators, resulting in cost savings in structures, construction and installation costs.

· Polymer insulators and surge arresters are resistant to damage resulting from installation and to damage from vandalism. The lack of flying fragments when a polymer insulator is shot deprives the vandal from his satisfaction with a spectacular event and should discourage insulators as convenient targets.

· Polymer arresters allow for multiple operations (such as may result from station circuit reclosings), without violently failing.

· Polymer insulators permit increased conductor (and static wire) line tensions, resulting in lower construction designs by permitting longer spans, fewer towers or lower tower heights.

· Polymer one-piece insulators, lacking the flexibility of porcelain strings and the firm attachment of the conductor it support are said to produce a tendency to dampen galloping lines.

Although polymer insulation has become increasingly utilized over the past several decades, there are literally millions of porcelain insulated installations in this country alone; economics does not permit their wholesale replacement. Advantage is taken of maintenance and reconstruction of such facilities to make the change to polymers.

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